[  ]
Restore the Wetlands. Reinforce the Levees.

Posts Tagged ‘unemployment’

Jobs, Jobs . . . Senate Republicans Keep Vets Unemployed

Tuesday, September 25th, 2012

“The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”

“Where is our honor? Where is our valor? Where is our sacrifice?” —Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK), leading opposition to Veterans Jobs Corps Act

“I care deeply about the veterans. I care deeply about housing and helping the veterans who have fought for their country.” —Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), assisting the opposition

“This Congress let partisan bickering stand in the way of putting thousands of America’s heroes back to work. Lowering veteran unemployment is something both parties should be able to agree on—even in an election year.”Paul Rieckhoff, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America

*

The next time you hear Republican politicians praising “our brave men and women in uniform,” remember that all but 5 G.O.P. senators voted No on the Veterans Jobs Corps Act of 2012. The bill failed, 58–40, on a procedural vote, just two votes short. This bipartisan bill would have provided $1 billion over five years to help up to 20,000 veterans find work in their communities. All Democrats voted for the bill. The Republicans who voted Aye are Lisa Murkowski (AK), Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine; Scott Brown (MA); and Dean Heller (NV). Two Republicans did not vote. (In the Obama years, 51 votes is no longer a majority. Because the G.O.P. filibusters all legislation, 60 votes are needed.) Now the Congress is on recess till after election day—the earliest pre-election vacay since 1960—and Republicans will be busy blaming Obama and the Democrats for the underperforming economy.

Now, in the federal budget, $1 billion is not a large amount, and, in our humble opinion, even as a down payment this would be a pathetically small investment when the unemployment rate of veterans is officially 10.9% (certainly higher in fact). Further, this money would have been “paid for”: it would not have added to the federal debt because Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) ensured that funding would have come in part from Medicare providers and suppliers who are delinquent on their tax bills. Remember also that during the George W. Bush years, the enormous costs of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars were never part of the official budget of the United States, but were routinely allocated through “emergency supplementals”. According to the National Priorities Project, costs of these two wars so far total $1.38 trillion (with Iraq at $807.4 and Afghanistan at $570.9 billion). But $1 billion for job training that would help 20,000 veterans, said Republican senator Tom Coburn, was a mere “political exercise” and a waste of time, as the House of Representatives would not pass it anyway.

According to the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America:

In addition to creating jobs for veterans as police officers, firefighters, first responders, and restorative conservationists, the Veterans Job Corps Act would have also extended the critical Transition Assistance Program (TAP). TAP provides employment, education and entrepreneurship advice for troops separating from the service, and to veterans and their spouses after they’ve left the military. The VJC would also require states to consider military training and experience in granting credentials and licensure for EMTs, nursing assistants and commercial driver’s licenses.

A New York Times editorial in favor of the bill pointed out:

The bill gives priority to those who served on or after 9/11, with good reason: the jobless rate for veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan hit 10.9 percent in August, compared with 8.1 percent nationally. This is a time of persistent homelessness and unemployment among veterans, and record suicides among veterans and active-duty service members, many of them stressed by the burdens of two long wars. It makes sense for the 99 percent of Americans to find new ways to pay their debt to the 1 percent who serve in uniform. [LNW’s emphasis]

To most people, Senator Murray’s bill would seem like one decent way to do that. But not if you’re one of those Republicans in Washington who thinks it’s more important in an election year to deny Democrats a success or accomplishment of any kind.

*

For the last word here, let’s listen to the occasionally candid and revealing Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), as he gives away the game just before the 2010 mid-term elections:

The single most important thing we [congressional Republicans] want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.

*

See also:

They Need to Do Their Job: Obama Bitch-Slaps G.O.P. Deficit Hardliners, Hell-Bent Extremists” (LNW 7/1/11)

2001 Bush Tax Cuts: Where the Deficit Began” (LNW 7/20/11)

Arguing about How to Defuse a Huge Ticking Bomb: Burn-it-Down Nihilism Spreads Among Tea-Infused House Republicans” (LNW 7/20/11)

Grinch Wins Plastic Turkey Award: Pentagon Demands Reimbursement of Signing Bonuses from Disabled Vets” (LNW 11/19/07)

*



“Pass This Jobs Bill”

Thursday, September 8th, 2011

*

“I am sending this Congress a plan that you should pass right away. It’s called the American Jobs Act. There should be nothing controversial about this piece of legislation. Everything in here is the kind of proposal that’s been supported by both Democrats and Republicans—including many who sit here tonight. . . .”

“This is the American Jobs Act. It will lead to new jobs for construction workers, for teachers, for veterans, for first responders, young people and the long-term unemployed. It will provide tax credits to companies that hire new workers, tax relief to small business owners, and tax cuts for the middle class. And here’s the other thing I want the American people to know: The American Jobs Act will not add to the deficit. It will be paid for.”

*

President Challenges Congress to Act as if It’s Functional

President Obama did the right thing—about two years late—in asking for an address before a joint session of Congress. For only the second time in his presidency in a speech other than a State of the Union address (the other occasion was in September 2009 when he launched a big push for health care reform), the president pitched to the nation a plan costing just under $450 billion designed to avert a second recession and attack an unemployment crisis and economic stagnation that require action now. Economists say it could add almost 2 million jobs. Paul Krugman says, “significantly bolder and better than I expected.” Even conservative NYT columnist David Brooks says the plan has potential and is worth pursuing.

In “plainspoken, Trumanesque” language—no wonky terms or professorial manner tonight, not even the highfalutin word “infrastructure”—Obama pressed for a jobs and economic relief package with a memorable name, the American Jobs Act, that is 55% tax cuts, 31% infrastructure and local aid, and 14% unemployment insurance. (Detailed breakdown here.) He stressed the bipartisan origins of the proposals, and about a dozen times in 30 minutes he directed Congress to “pass this bill.” Obama was assertive, even imperative, yet his message was warmed by a progressive moral vision; if he keeps this up he just might win re-election.

What’s in the American Jobs Act?

Washington Post policy analyst Ezra Klein observes that “the plan, taken as a whole, attempts to include every single theory of how to address the jobs crisis. If you believe we need more direct spending, you’ve got the infrastructure component. More tax cuts? The plan has $250 billion in tax cuts. More help for the unemployed? Yep.”

Among the elements identified by Ezra that we find most appealing are:

•  “$35 billion in aid to states and cities to prevent teacher layoffs, and earmarks $25 billion for investments in school infrastructure.”

•  “$50 billion for investments in transportation infrastructure, $15 billion for investments in vacant or foreclosed properties, and $10 billion for an infrastructure bank.” (Why not the $50 billion for an infrastructure bank that Obama has proposed before?)

•  “$49 billion to extend expanded unemployment insurance benefits. $8 billion for a new tax credit to encourage businesses to hire the long-term unemployed, and $5 billion for a new program aimed at supporting part-time and summer jobs for youth and job training for the unemployed.”

The jobs act, crafted by the administration, not left to the tender mercies of congressional committees—is heavily weighted with originally Republican ideas that will make it politically harder for the G.O.P. to dismiss. They will invent reasons to reject it anyway, though House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) did have the decency to release a statement that “The proposals the President outlined tonight merit consideration.” Maybe those golf games are paying off. Republicans do not want to allow this president any kind of accomplishment before November 2012, regardless of the deep and widespread suffering of millions of jobless, homeless, hopeless fellow citizens whose taxes pay the representatives’ salaries and health plans. (Note: The American Jobs Act “will not add to the deficit”: it will be paid for by cuts elsewhere. Even if it were not paid for, it would cost only about half of the projected $800 billion addition to the deficit incurred by extension of the Bush Tax cuts for million- and billionaires in Dec. 2010.)

“The people who sent us here—the people who hired us to work for them—they don’t have the luxury of waiting 14 months. Some of them are living week to week, paycheck to paycheck, even day to day. They need help, and they need it now.”

“Paycheck to paycheck”? Some 15 to 20 million would-be workers have no paycheck at all, not even unemployment benefits.

(more…)


Go Big, Obama: Give Us a 10-Year Jobs Plan

Monday, September 5th, 2011

*
As Long as They’re Calling You a Socialist, Go All the Way

What does “Labor Day” mean to the 15+ million unemployed?

Below is our Happy Labor Day card to President Obama in advance of his address to the nation Thursday, Sept. 8, about proposals for alleviating the nation’s chronic unemployment crisis. The jobless rate is stuck at 9.1 percent, but it’s really over 16% counting the under-employed who find only part-time work or those who have given up looking. The unemployment rate is near 17% for African Americans and 18% among Americans under 24.

Barack Obama has been in office for 2 1/2 years. Republicans in Congress have blocked every effort to revive the economy, and anything that has passed they insist has failed (though they secretly like the stimulus). They figure more jobless = fewer votes for Obama and Democrats. Thus far, Obama has sought to “find common ground” with a party that blocks him at every turn. No matter what he proposes on Thursday, they will say America cannot afford it, that government is the problem, not the solution, and that only reducing “job-killing” regulations and taxes will kick-start job growth. Eight years of George W. Bush disproved that theory. Obama and Democrats—and we ordinary citizens who want the stalemate to end—must affirm that government can and must help create jobs because no one else will. U.S. corporations, enjoying record profits, are sitting on some $2 trillion in capital, reluctant to hire because of depressed consumer demand. Rational behavior.

We believe that in addition to a big, bold, WPA-style jobs program described below, the government should also extend federal unemployment benefits and the temporary payroll tax cut for employees beyond the end of 2011. Also, the highway trust fund should be reauthorized before it ends Sept. 30: that could prevent furloughs of current workers and create up to 120,000 jobs a year through 2014. See other proposals here and here. Some say the U.S. cannot “afford” government action. We say the U.S.—and the world—cannot afford our inaction.

The letter to the president follows after the jump.

*

(more…)


Declare Independence from Endless War

Sunday, July 4th, 2010

“A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”

Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., “Declaration of Independence from the War in Vietnam,” Riverside Church, New York City, April 4, 1967

While we’re enjoying good old-fashioned 4th of July cookouts, fireworks, and other traditional Independence Day pleasures, let’s also take some time to remember the soldiers far away in Iraq and Afghanistan who are not with their families, as well as those who are recovering (we hope) in military hospitals, and let’s begin mentally drafting letters and phone call messages to the White House and Congress to demand the nation’s independence from those unaffordable wars. Bring the troops home already. We can’t wait until July 2011, which Obama suggested as a potential beginning of a drawdown when he announced the 30,000-troop escalation at West Point last December when the Afghan war was already in its eighth year. (See our assessment of the president’s decision to escalate, “Deeper into Afghanistan: 360 Degrees of Damnation.”)

The explosive revelations in Michael Hastings’s Rolling Stone article “The Runaway General” were only superficially about Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s trash-talking Obama’s national security team. It may be that in the long term the most damaging consequences will be the revelations that the troops in Afghanistan do not support the vaunted counterinsurgency (COIN) strategy for which the additional 30,000+ troops have been “surged” into the hell-hole, and even McChrystal himself has doubts that the COIN strategy can work there (see “Afghanistan: More Insane Than a Quagmire” below). We expect no substantial changes under Gen. David Petraeus, whose 99–o approval by the Senate on June 30 can only be interpreted as a license to do as he will, for as long as he pleases, whatever it may cost.

Costs of War: Unaffordable, Unsustainable, Unconscionable

This past week, when Senate Republicans and Ben Nelson (D-NE) warmed up the nation for the 4th of July festivities by filibustering for a third straight time an extension of unemployment benefits for millions of jobless Americans—15 million are out of work, about the number who were unemployed when Franklin Roosevelt took office in 1933—the House approved $80 billion for Afghan war funding. Sounds just like the Bush years. The Center for American Progress reports that “as of July 3, an estimated 1.7 million workers will lose their benefits. If this drags on through July, a total of 3.2 million workers will lose their benefits.”

Think Progress reports that 17 senators from states with double-digit jobless rates have repeatedly voted to filibuster unemployment benefits. Click the chart to read all about it.

(more…)