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Archive for the ‘Unemployment’ tag

What Atrios Says

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I agree with Ezra that creating jobs is more important than appearing to fight for jobs, whatever the hell that last one is, but at some point we’re going to have an election campaign. Trying to get through backroom deals which may or may not have much positive effect on the economy won’t be enough, either. At some point it’s time to explain what you would like to do for the economy, and why the bastards on the other side are against it.

And, if I may, doing so would be good politics as well as good policy. Ezra Klein disagrees, as you can see if you follow the link in the quote above. Part of Klein’s argument is as follows:

Ron Klain, former chief of staff to both Al Gore and Joe Biden, thinks President Obama needs to make more of a show of fighting for job-creating policies. “The greatest risk to the president will be if the American people believe the administration isn’t trying hard enough to tackle the jobs problem,” he writes. “That is why it is imperative for the administration to do more — proposing new ideas, initiatives and job-creation programs — and without delay. It may not succeed, but it must get ‘caught trying’ to do more to spur job creation.”

This advice appeals to me. It’s what I’d like to see happen. But I also think it’s wrong, and if I were advising President Obama, I’d advise him not to take it.

Ezra has a lot more faith in the Republicans acting rationally than I do. Meanwhile, Obama needs to make the case for more stimulus and job creation by the federal government. The current House may not go along, but by winning the economic debate, the President can help change the House from red to blue.

Written by slothropia

June 29th, 2011 at 8:12 pm

MSNBC and Wall Street Journal Don’t Believe in Democracy

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Chuck and Savannah interviewed Jerry Seib from the Wall Street Journal today about that MSNBC/WSJ poll last week that found (among other things) that the people of the U.S. want job creation before deficit reduction, higher taxes on the rich and no cuts to Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security and K-12 education.

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All sides in this interview seem shocked that ordinary citizens do not accept the wisdom of the political and financial superiors. The elite needs to do more “educating” to persuade the public that we should submit to the budget enema the GOP and Obama White House want to administer. Go ahead, fat cats. Educate away! You still can’t fool all the people all the time, and a lot of people are awake and paying attention right now.

Written by slothropia

March 7th, 2011 at 12:58 pm

Aaron Schock, Destroyer of the Middle class

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Well, the holidays are over and I’m out of egg nog so it’s time to climb out of my cozy little burrow and engage the world, or at least the blogosphere, once more.

And I have drafted a provocative title for my first post holiday post, no? Do I really mean to say that Aaron Schock is trying to destroyed the middle class in the U.S.? Why yes, yes I do. Please allow me to ‘splain.

Schock is a Republican, and the Republicans in congress do not talk much these days about unemployment and the need to create jobs. They do talk a lot about “balancing the budget” and reducing federal spending. They see the deficit and national debt as a crisis but unemployment not so much. What most economists will tell you however is that it is going to be pretty hard to do much about deficits until unemployment is solved.

Don’t take my word for it. Here’s my favorite Nobel Economics laureate, Paul Krugman:

What the government should be doing in this situation is spending more while the private sector is spending less, supporting employment while those debts are paid down. And this government spending needs to be sustained: we’re not talking about a brief burst of aid; we’re talking about spending that lasts long enough for households to get their debts back under control. The original Obama stimulus wasn’t just too small; it was also much too short-lived, with much of the positive effect already gone.

It’s true that we’re making progress on deleveraging. Household debt is down to 118 percent of income, and a strong recovery would bring that number down further. But we’re still at least several years from the point at which households will be in good enough shape that the economy no longer needs government support.

But wouldn’t it be expensive to have the government support the economy for years to come? Yes, it would — which is why the stimulus should be done well, getting as much bang for the buck as possible.

But of course, Schock and his reactionary party opposed the inadequate stimulus proposed by Obama and disposed by Congressional Democrats. stimulus Obama supported. And based on the year end tax cut sell out and GOP rhetoric, Republicans don’t care about the deficit anyway, as long as taxes for the wealthy are cut and the rich become richer.

On December 30 of last year the Peoria Journal Star published one of their periodic puff pieces written by Karen McDonald and based on an interview with Rep. Schock (or maybe just a press release – hard to tell) in an attempt to convince Schock’s constituents that he has their best interests at heart, that he is working to make life better for the good people of the fightin’ 18th. The piece, touches on the plans Schock and the GOP have for the upcoming congress:

Schock recently was appointed to Congress’ most powerful committee – the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee – for the 112th Congress. It also has jurisdiction over trade policies, Social Security, Supplemental Security Income and Medicare, among other responsibilities.

He said top priorities for the new Congress will be approval of the nation’s free trade agreement with South Korea – recently reworked from its original 2007 form to address concerns from both sides – and free trade agreements with Colombia and Panama. They are important to growing the agriculture economy in the 18th District and manufacturing base, Schock said.

When Congress reconvenes Jan. 5, Republicans will be in charge of the House and hold more seats in the Senate.

“We can’t fix the unfunded liabilities in our entitlement programs and make significant cuts in federal spending with just a Republican House. These efforts will require bipartisan support,” Schock said.

So Schock wants to “fix the unfunded liabilities in our entitlement programs and make significant cuts in federal spending “. That is, he wants to cut and/or privatize social security and medicare while taking demand out of the economy during a period of high unemployment and under employment. So why would anyone who is not stinking rich vote for this guy?

Is it just me or does it not seem odd that Schock fails to mention a determination to fix unemployment as his primary goal in the upcoming Congressional session? He seems to think that trade deals will give the economy a boost, based apparently on the success of NAFTA in creating new employment in this country . Caterpillar, a major employer in Schock’s district, have created a lot of new jobs recently – in other countries.

Schock has it easy since getting the GOP nomination in Illinois 18 back in’06. His political life could become more interesting now that Illinois has lost a seat in the House of Representatives. He may find himself running in a district not so friendly to GOPers and Tea Baggers next time. Maybe that will encourage the Congressman to moderate his views and join with the Democrats on some House votes. But I doubt it.

Written by slothropia

January 4th, 2011 at 12:21 pm

U.S. Midterm Elections: Voters Poke Selves in Eye

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Never mind the predictions I made the night before Election Day. Some of them were right and some were not so accurate. Good thing I don’t make a living as a psychic.

The consensus prediction was that the Republicans would win way more than enough seats in the U.S. House to take charge, and they did. They also added six new Senators to their caucus and enjoyed a net gain of 7 or 8 governors (some of those races are still open). The GOP even won 55 out of 99 state legislature chambers and increased the number of stares where they control both houses.

The focus now becomes what happens next. Senior Republicans at all levels and in all jurisdictions are saying there is no room for compromise with Obama and the Democrats. The president today, however, told a White House press conference that he is ready and willing to sit down with Republicans and try to find common ground to solve the nation’s problems (I am paraphrasing).

Of course for two years, the Teapublicans have been yelling about out of control spending and federal budget deficits. It turns out to have been a shrewd tactic in that the GOPers won the House and made gains in the Senate. During the campaign the GOP said very little about what they would do about jobs and the economy, the number one issue on voters minds per exit polling conducted on Election Day. The Democrats during he campaign seemed to have not much to offer either except to say “We’ve done our best and we’re on the right track.” No comfort there for the jobless, the homeless and the soon to be foreclosed upon.

In fact, most economists will tell you that there is very little hope for the employment picture to brighten unless there is some stimulus from the federal government. But the Republicans are pretending that the voters care more about the deficit than unemployment. They have no stated plans to do anything about unemployment except maybe transfer even more wealth upward in the form of tax cuts for the wealthy.

Here’s Krugman reacting to Obama’s press conference today:

Nobody cares about this stuff — they care about results. Nobody really cares about earmarks; they’re just code for spending less (less on somebody else, of course, not me). Nobody cares about civility and bipartisanship, which in practice are code for Democrats giving in to Republican demands. Nobody cares about parliamentary maneuvers: we can argue about the role of health reform in the election, but I bet not one voter in 50 knows or cares that it was passed using reconciliation (as were the sacred Bush tax cuts we must, must retain).

If Obama had used fancy footwork and 2 AM sessions to pass a big public works program, and this program had brought unemployment down, Republicans would be screaming about the process — and Democrats would have comfortably held control of Congress. Remember the voter backlash against the way Medicare drug benefits were passed? Neither do I.

Oh, by the way — nobody cares about the deficit, either.

Anyone who pays attention to government and politics in the U.S. should know that Republicans are not interested in solving unemployment. Maybe that’s why Republican favorability is even lower than Democrats’, already measured in opinion surveys but confirmed in Election Day exit polling. How many of those informed voters voted Republican anyway? How many low information voters voted Republican to punish the Democrats for failing to lower unemployment?

At this point it looks as though the short term impact of the election results will be a stalemate in Washington, with the Republican Tea Bag coalition passing unacceptable spending cuts and other mischievous legislation, which the Senate will refuse to pass and the White House forced to veto whatever right wing crap does manage to slither through the process.

The Republican posture at the moment is aggressive and uncompromising. Too Democrats in Washington are ready as ever to apologize for having any principles, although it is important to note that the 99% of the Progressive Caucus was reelected while about half of the Blue Dogs were sent packing. The problem is that the president’s weak approach to both policy and messaging means that Republicans win arguments by yelling louder (usually but not always figuratively).

So in the short term, if everybody follows the script the Right and the corporate media have written, there will be no federal action to stimulate the economy. The Republicans keep saying they want to reduce spending but have cleverly avoided saying what they would cut to balance the budget. Any cuts that are made will depress the economy further and delay full recovery that much further.

This is not the policy result people wanted but that is what they voted for. They bought a pig in a poke and poked themselves in the eye doing it.

The other plank in the Republicans stripped down p[platform was a promise to repeal “Obama Care”. On this, they do have some backing in public opinion, but the corporate media rarely notes that some something like a third of those who oppose health care reform do so because they don’t think it goes far enough. There is still a lot of support for a public option or even single payer, but shush, don’t let the rubes know that.

At least part of the credit for the GOP victory goes to the big, secret bucks that bought all those negative ads. And the corporate media (not just Fox NOT News Channel) reinforces the memes that the Right needs to be reinforced. And the 24 hour information vacuum still deprives people of the knowledge they need to make basic political decisions, like who to vote for to get the policy results they want.

Maybe, after the Right has completely destroyed the middle class and made living conditions intolerable for almost everybody, maybe then the poor and the middle class will gang up on the rich. Maybe when state and federal governments stop functioning because the nation’s wealth was squandered in foreign wars, then maybe people will begin demand real democracy and equality.

In the meantime, I couldn’t put it any better than good ole Digby:

So, here we are. People keep asking me what this means for the progressive movement and I reply — nothing. Progressives are in this for the long haul. And anyone with any experience knows that the country is polarized between the right and the left, with a bunch of people in between who don’t know what to think. All we can do is keep trying out different ways to persuade them that their best bet is to go with the progressive philosophy and require our elected politicians to figure out how to turn that philosophy into governance. It’s a long term battle that has periods of intense confrontation and calm conciliation, but it never really ends.

As you go about your business today, feeling like hell, keep in mind that it was just two years ago that many of the same pundits and gasbags were assuring us all that the conservative movement was dead. We are doing a lot of lurching about right now because the country is under stress and our political system is dividing strongly along partisan lines. Get used to it. I suspect we’re going to be in for turbulent politics like this for some time. And if we play our cards right, and the Democrats don’t completely implode, it’s probable that at the end of the day we (or those who come behind us) will look back and see that human rights, economic justice and peace came out the winners more often than not.

Written by slothropia

November 3rd, 2010 at 11:45 pm

A Fine Whine:What More Do Progressives Want?

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I am getting sick and tired of pundits asking rhetorically, as Chris Matthews did today, “What more do progressives want?” in reference to the so called “enthusiasm gap”. Democratic turnout is supposed to be depressed this year, in contrast with the Republican Tea party, whose voters are said to be lining up to vote like techno geeks waiting to buy the latest toy from Apple. In recent weeks, the President, the Vice-president and all the President’s surrogates have taken to lecturing Democrats to “buck up” and vote because it is too important not to.

Somehow all this exhortation gets translated into the Democrats and the Obama administration blaming progressives for not being supportive enough. Now one can’t get through an hour of cable news or the Sunday chats without hearing “What more do progressives want?” Progressives, you see are supposed to be happy and grateful for all the legislation passed by the Democratic congress and signed into law by the Democratic president. Things like the health care reform, financial regulation and the economic stimulus of 2009.

As I have indicated in previous posts, I am in fact disappointed with the Obama administration and the Congressional Democrats. But that’s OK. I am not a big D Democrat. I am a progressive (a socialist, really) but I almost always vote for whatever Democrat on the ballot. This year will be no different. I anticipate splitting my votes between the Green and Democratic parties. And I always vote. Even if I only have a ficus plant to vote for. I am not the problem. The people who might not vote are less interested in politics than your garden variety progressive blogger. You know, like the unemployed and working poor, some minorities, poor people, youth. Progressives would like to have seen the Dems do more to address the concerns of these groups and others, but we will still vote against the GOP.

And that’s the Democrats’ last resort in capturing the progressive vote. The other guys are worse. Way worse. Worse than ever.

So let me try to answer the question “What more do progressives want?” Maybe I’ll throw in (for free) a few things I, at least, did not and do not want.

For starters, I wanted anyone who committed war crimes on behalf of the U.S. government held accountable. Maybe not a prison sentence for W, but at least some acknowledgment that U.S. and International laws were violated and at least a hope that it would not happen again. I did not want to see Obama’s first Solicitor General (now a Supreme Court Justice) argue in Federal Court that, “the U.S. Government is completely immune from litigation for illegal spying — that the Government can never be sued for surveillance that violates federal privacy statutes.” That’s not what i voted for.

Of course, I wanted health care reform to include a single payer health insurance system. I knew it wasn’t politically doable, but the proposal and the argument should have and could have been made. Failing that I would like to have seen the President fight vigorously for the public option. Would a greater effort have changed the immediate outcome? I don’t know, but again, making the effort would at least have altered the debate, making future progress more likely. I certainly did not want to sere the President’s Chief of Staff (he (who must not be named), make backroom deals with big pharma and the health insurance companies.

Continuing the war in Afghanistan does not constitute a broken promise on Obama’s part, but his escalation there was a foolish step further into quick sand. Everyone knows we are wasting time, treasure and lives there, but the generals and the officer corps apparently need their war, or else how will they ever get combat experience and promotions. Some civilian control over the military would be nice, I think.

Finally, I hoped that the new administration would take decisive action to mitigate the effects of the recession that (ha ha) ended last year. Instead, Summers and Geitner made sure that the stimulus of 2009 was weakened.

Well, I have tried to explain to anyone who accidentally reads this some of what progressives have wanted and really continue to hope for. If the president or anyone on his staff should somehow hear about this I want them to know I hope it helps.