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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Crew of 42: Rep. Bobby Scott: 99ers Want Work, Need Assistance

Courtesy of Lauren Burke at Crew of 42, an interview with Rep. Bobby Scott on the need for a bill to help the 99ers:

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Crew of 42 Reports: New Bill Introduced To Help 99ers

Lauren Burke at Crew of 42 and Daily Kos is reporting news of a new bill, H. R. 6556, that's been written to help the 99ers.

As reported, the bill will provide 14 additional weeks of emergency unemployment compensation in Tier I.

Quoting from Crew of 42:

This additional benefit will be available for those who have exhausted all their benefits (99ers and other exhaustees) as well as those who will be unemployed this year.

This expansion is similar to the expansion in Nov. 2009 which provided an additional week of benefits to Tier II.

Adding these extra weeks in Tier I makes them available for all chronically unemployed and not only those currently collecting unemployment benefits from a "high unemployment state."

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Shepard Smith On Blockers Of 9/11 Responders Bill: 'How Do They Sleep At Night?'

(Updated below x3)

Perhaps spurred by the previous night's episode of The Daily Show, Shepard Smith and Chris Wallace spent about three minutes discussing the failure to pass the Zadroga Act. Listen and look at the language they use:

  • "how do they sleep at night?"
  • "are they gonna get that done?"
  • "it's a national shame"
  • "Congress"
  • "it's all political"
  • "who's gonna hold these peoples' feet to the fire?"
  • "everybody who voted against it"
  • "politicians who wrap themselves in the flag of 9/11"

Not once do they make mention of Democrats or Republicans in the entire segment. And from Fox's perspective, there's a good reason why, as evidenced by the votes for the Zadroga Act in the House and the Senate.

Friday, December 17, 2010

An Opportunity

Real Time Economics posted one of the most read and commented blog entries from Friday's Wall Street Journal. "Unemployment Extension Won't Help 99ers" lays out the problem with the just-signed tax cut deal in a nutshell:

"The extension for unemployment benefits that is part of the compromise tax deal is good news for many of the unemployed, but it won't provide aid to anyone who's been out of a job over 99 weeks"

The article caught the attention of The American Prospect:

Well, as The Wall Street Journal suggests, liberals (myself included) might have made a mistake by not subjecting the extension to more scrutiny, since - for all of its good - it doesn't actually provide aid to anyone who's been out of work for more than 99 weeks

Senators and House members have gotten it wrong, too, as Arthur Delaney at the Huffington Post reports:

(Sen. Orrin) Hatch joins Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) and Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), who in the past few weeks made the same mistake. HuffPost first reported that members of Congress don't understand unemployment benefits back in November.

Some in Congress get it. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, for instance:

WASHINGTON - Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) said on the House floor Thursday that any deal to preserve tax cuts for the rich ought to include help for people who have exhausted 99 weeks of benefits and still haven't found work.

Other members of the Congressional Black Caucus also expressed the need to extend benefits to the 99ers:

Rep. Bobby Scott, speaking for the Congressional Black Caucus at Friday's press conference, stated, "We support the 13-month extension of unemployment insurance benefits, but we all agree that we also ought to extend benefits for the so-called 99ers - those who are exhausting the benefits they have."

We can't leave a story like this in the Friday trash dump. It's far too important to the 1.5 million 99ers, to say nothing of the 4 million expected to join our ranks in the coming year.

The 111th Congress is coming to a close. The odds that the Senate would take up a bill like Senator Stabenow's S. 3706 are vanishingly small. Our challenge is to engage the incoming Congress on as many levels as we can: in the media, through e-mails and faxes, and most important, in person.

We have an opportunity to build on the WSJ story - we have an opportunity to inform public opinion and the Congress. It's going to be an uphill battle all the way, but that's what we've been faced with since day one.

The Daily Show - Worst Responders

Senate Republicans filibuster the Zadroga bill but pass tax cuts for the wealthy, which is great news for firefighters who make over $200,000 a year

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Worst Responders
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Thursday, December 16, 2010

After 99 Weeks, Then What?

Reporting on the 99ers from the St. Louis Beacon:

Until the economy begins adding jobs, Rosen believes that the nation needs to provide for its jobless. While the current legislation reinstates 99 weeks of benefits for about 2 million Americans, he warns that they, too, will eventually become 99ers if they don't find work.

"If we pass unemployment insurance to 99ers, everybody says, 'What will it do to the deficit? And what's going to happen to our children's and our grandchildren's future?' That's a good question. But in a lot of instances the future is now for a lot of Americans," Rosen said.

Rosen said the real goal is to save the U.S. economy.

"Obviously the end goal is to get all of America back to work," he said. "Nobody wants to sit home on the couch. Those who are unemployed who are still fortunate enough to be receiving an unemployment insurance check they don't want to sit home and receive a check that is only a fraction of what they used to make when they were out in the working world."

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Daily Show: Lame-as-F@#k Congress

Here's a tribute to the few Republican senators who find comfort and advantage in invoking the heroes of 9/11 but refuse to give them health care. Also, too, Governor Schwarzenegger has a message for you.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Lame-as-F@#k Congress
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Monday, December 13, 2010

Judge Hudson, Meet EMTALA

US District Court Judge Henry Hudson found that Congress cannot order individuals to buy health insurance. In his opinion, he writes:

(T)he Secretary urges an expansive interpretation of the concept of activity. She posits that every individual in the United States will require health care at some point in their lifetime, if not today, perhaps next week or even next year. Her theory further postulates that because near-universal participation is critical to the underwriting process, the collective effect of refusal to purchase health insurance affects the national market. Therefore, she argues, requiring advance purchase of insurance based upon a future contingency is an activity that will inevitably affect interstate commerce. Of course, the same reasoning could apply to transportation, housing, or nutritional decisions. This broad definition of the economic activity subject to congressional regulation lacks logical limitation and is unsupported by Commerce Clause jurisprudence.

Judge Hudson seems be using a version of the "can the government force you to buy a car" argument, but he's overlooking a critical difference between health care and transportation, housing and nutrition: I can't walk into a car dealership and demand a car (unless I also offer to pay for it). I can't walk into a real estate agency and demand a home. I can't walk into a grocery store and demand food. But, I can walk into an emergency room and demand treatment, regardless of my ability to pay.

Meet EMTALA.

Under the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act passed in 1986, hospitals have certain obligations:

  1. Individuals requesting emergency care... must receive a medical screening examination to determine whether an emergency medical condition (EMC) exists. Examination and treatment cannot be delayed to inquire about methods of payment or insurance coverage, or a patient's citizenship or legal status. The hospital may only start the process of payment inquiry and billing once the patient has been stabilized to a degree that the process will not interfere with or otherwise compromise patient care.
  2. The emergency room... must treat an individual with an EMC until the condition is resolved or stabilized and the patient is able to provide self-care following discharge, or if unable, can receive needed continual care. Inpatient care provided must be at an equal level for all patients, regardless of ability to pay. Hospitals may not discharge a patient prior to stabilization if the patient's insurance is canceled or otherwise discontinues payment during course of stay.

Under EMTALA, the collective effect of refusal to purchase health insurance will affect the national market. Let's look at the possibilities:

  • The ER patient has insurance. The insurance company reimburses the hospital for the care they provide.
  • The patient lacks insurance. The patient pays out of pocket. The hospital is reimbursed.
  • The patient lacks insurance, but cannot pay. The hospital is not reimbursed.

That last possibility is an example of what's called the free rider problem: someone consuming more of a resource than they pay for.

In this case, the part of the Affordable Care Act that Judge Hudson severed, the individual mandate, was the remedy Congress used to address the free rider problem. Judge Hudson did not address EMTALA in his opinion, and that oversight is a serious deficiency in his argument.

Friday, December 10, 2010

A Little Group of Willful Men

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Republicans Block 9/11 Health Care Bill
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Here"s the roll call vote on the Zadroga Act: notice the (R) next to the names of the nay votes and the "not voting" votes?

Woodrow Wilson said it best when he described the Senate as:

"A little group of willful men, representing no opinion but their own, have rendered the great Government of the United States helpless and contemptible."

Republicans, where is your shame? The attacks of September 11, 2001 were an attack on the Nation. The men and women who responded to the scene of the attacks demonstrated their full measure of duty and devotion. How can you possibly disregard their service and the debt we as a nation owe them?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

A Response to @GrassrootTroopr - Part II

Part I details the Twitter dialogue. Part II, the rebuttal.

Cloture

The rules of the Senate allow for unlimited debate unless cloture is invoked. It takes 60 votes to pass a cloture motion, which means that the 59 Senate Democrats can't do it by themselves: they need at least one Republican. The problem is that Republicans have been threatening to filibuster bills at an unprecedented rate: 131 cloture motions have been filed since the start of the 111th Congress. In the words of Norm Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute, Republican filibuster threats are "like throwing molasses in the road." Even worse: When bills do come up for a vote, they often pass with significant Republican support: recent votes were decided by 69-26, 74-25 and 84-14 margins. Republicans aren't only using filibuster threats as a way to extract concessions: they're also using filibuster threats as a way to run out as much of the clock as they can. The more time it takes one bill to pass, the less time there is on the Senate's calendar for the rest.

GT's suggestion above to "make necessary changes" is an empty recommendation. The evidence is clear that Senate Republicans are actively working to deny the Obama Administration any political victory they can by passing the least number of bills possible, even when they themselves support the legislation.

A Response to @GrassrootTroopr - Part I

In response to a recent tweet, I had an interesting, sometimes challenging, sometimes frustrating conversation with a right-wing tweeter named @GrassrootTroopr (@GT). I've copied the tweets here and drafted a more comprehensive rebuttal to his assertions in part two.

@H9: "Only in the US Senate would a 59-1 vote in favor of a bill fail. #p2 #tcot"

@GT: "My recommendation to those in the Senate would be to make necessary changes to whatever bill it is, so that cloture can be achieved. What say you?"

@H9: "This is what that process looks like today: http://twitpic.com/3di8vo"

@GT: "Yeah, it was that way on taking over car companies, nationalizing student loans, nationalizing banks & healthcare. NOT! Obama rammed it thru."

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Club For Growth Hasn't A Clue

David Keating, executive director of the Club for Growth, is quoted in a current BBC article about the 99ers.

Mr. Keating argues people should take out their own unemployment insurance, to prepare for the worst case scenario. "People can buy insurance for all kinds of things, there's no reason why they can't buy their own unemployment insurance," he adds.

Except for the fact that there's a really good reason why they can't: unemployment insurance is "nearly impossible to find at any price".

Monday, December 6, 2010

2 Million Additional 99ers in December

The 99ers community are those out-of-work men and women who have exhausted their unemployment benefits, which are currently capped at 99 weeks. Unless Congress authorizes an extension of UI benefits, 2 million Americans will be added to the list of exhaustees at the end of this month. Of note: nothing in any current proposal will extend benefits past 99 weeks. The 99ers community remains, figuratively and literally, out in the cold.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Lifeline

Call your representatives. Send a fax. Make your voice heard.

The Bikini Graph for November 2010

Steve Benen at The Washington Monthly devised this chart, showing the number of job losses from the onset of the Great Recession. This version of the graph shows private-sector jobs only, and the accompanying articles (here and here) are must reads for everyone who is concerned about jobs, unemployment and economic policy.

Bikini Graph for November 2010 - Steve Benen

It Shouldn't Have To Be This Way

Another must-read from Steve Benen:

...It's maddening because, as the jobs crisis fails to get better, one might think policymakers would see developments and say, "Hmm, maybe we ought to do something."

But they won't because they can't. Conceivably, a massive stimulus - focused on infrastructure, among other things - could come up in Congress, but nervous House Dems wouldn't want to vote for it, and it'd never overcome a Republican filibuster in the Senate. Best of all, conservatives have done a masterful job at rigging the game - Americans have been convinced over the last 22 months that the most effective policies happen to be the worst. Taking steps to improve a struggling economy, ironically enough, has become wildly unpopular, making worthwhile ideas so far off the table, they're not even brought up.

It's reached the point at which Republicans proudly block extended jobless benefits, with an unemployment rate near 10%, because they assume they'll face no political punishment whatsoever. And they're right.

Unemployed, and Likely to Stay That Way

An article in the December 2, 2010 edition of the New York Times reports:
The longer people stay out of work, the more trouble they have finding new work, adding to the challenge for policy makers trying to reduce joblessness.

Employment Situation Summary - November 2010

The unemployment rate edged up to 9.8 percent in November, and nonfarm payroll employment was little changed (+39,000), the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Temporary help services and health care continued to add jobs over the month, while employment fell in retail trade. Employment in most major industries changed little in November.

read the full report at BLS.gov