Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Speaker Boehner, where are the jobs?

The GOP won an overwhelming majority in the 112th Congress because of the power of one simple question: "Where are the jobs?" So, how has Congress done this year?

Quoting from Ezra Klein's Wonkbook:

…So though there's a lot of talk about the deficit, there's not actually a lot of economic pressure to do anything about it. But the same can't be said for another neglected category of policymaking: jobs.

There has been less done for the jobless than for the deficit. After all, the debt-ceiling deal did lead to $900 billion in cuts to domestic discretionary spending, and to the spending trigger that threatens to make a trillion more in cuts starting in 2012. But the jobless? Save for a two-month extension of the payroll tax cut and unemployment insurance benefits, they got nothing.

And unlike the deficit, which isn't yet causing problems in the American economy, joblessness is an ongoing crisis. The unemployment rate is 8.6 percent. If millions of discouraged workers hadn't left the labor force, it would likely be in the double digits. That's led to immense suffering for the unemployed and their families, and also less consumer spending, more foreclosures, and a general prolonging of the economic crisis.

There are things Congress could do that would help the jobless. Infrastructure investment, for instance. A bigger payroll tax cut. A massive effort to refinance the mortgages of creditworthy borrowers. Burying sacks of cash out in the Nevada desert. But Congress isn't doing any of them. And unlike with deficit reduction, it didn't even spend the year obsessing over how to do any of them. It wasn't until September, when President Obama proposed the American Jobs Act, that the political system even began talking about job-creation proposals again.

This has been a key theme of 2011: For reasons that defy any of the signals we're seeing in the actual economy, Congress -- and, for much of the year, the president -- has been obsessed with finding a deal on deficit reduction and relatively resigned on policies to create jobs. In part, that's simply because the Republicans in Congress were (and are) staunchly opposed to further stimulus but seemed willing to work with Democrats on the deficit, and the political system prefers to focus on things it can do rather than things it can't. In part, it's because, for most of the year, Democrats were willing to go along with Republicans who wanted to talk about the deficit rather than job creation measures -- note that they didn't, for example, demand, as part of the debt-ceiling deal, that the supercommittee also come up with jobs proposals.

But the end result has been very weird, like watching the doctors of a patient with acute pneumonia spend a year discussing the best way for the patient to lose weight.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Instant Repudiation

These two stories were on the front page at TPM today.

In less time than it takes to scan a page, Mitt Romney is proven wrong (again), in this case, by the House GOP and their Speaker, John Boehner.

To review: President Obama threatened a veto if the GOP attached the Keystone XL pipeline to an extension of the payroll tax cut and unemployment insurance benefit. The GOP, naturally, attached the pipeline. Senators Reid and McConnell were able to work out a deal that the Senate approved by a vote of 89 to 10 - an example of overwhelming, bipartisan support. And today, the Speaker says that the House will not approve the bill the Senate passed.

Who's the divider again?

Quotes of the Year

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) — A Yale University librarian says the slogan "We are the 99 percent" by Occupy Wall Street protesters is the year's most notable quote.

Fred Shapiro has released his sixth annual list of the most memorable quotations of the year.

Shapiro picks quotes that are famous, important or revealing of the spirit of the times. The quotes aren't necessarily the most eloquent or admirable.

The "99 percent" slogan stems from a movement against economic disparity and perceived corporate greed. Protests began with Occupy Wall Street in Manhattan in September and spread around the country.

Billionaire investor Warren Buffett made the list for his complaint that he and his rich "have been coddled long enough" by Congress.

Politicians, including former Rep. Anthony Weiner, made their usual strong showing as well.

The list:

  1. "We are the 99 percent." — slogan of Occupy movement.
  2. "There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody. You built a factory out there — good for you! But I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for." — U.S. Sen. candidate Elizabeth Warren, speaking in Andover, Mass., in August.
  3. "My friends and I have been coddled long enough by a billionaire-friendly Congress." — Billionaire Warren Buffett, in a New York Times op-ed on Aug. 15.
  4. "I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming. Call me crazy." — Presidential candidate Jon Huntsman in an Aug. 18 tweet.
  5. "Oops." — Presidential candidate Rick Perry after unsuccessfully attempting to remember the third federal agency he would eliminate during a Nov. 9 debate.
  6. "When they ask me, 'Who is the president of Ubeki-beki-beki-beki-stan-stan?' I'm going to say, 'You know, I don't know. Do you know?'" — Then-presidential candidate Herman Cain in an interview by Christian Broadcasting Network on Oct. 7.
  7. "I am on a drug. It's called 'Charlie Sheen.' It's not available because if you try it once, you will die. Your face will melt off and your children will weep over your exploded body." — Actor Charlie Sheen in a February interview with ABC News.
  8. "Oh wow. Oh wow. Oh wow." — Apple co-founder Steve Jobs' last words on Oct. 5, as reported by his sister Mona Simpson in her eulogy.
  9. "I can't say with certitude." — Then-U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner on June 1 when he was asked whether a lewd photograph was in fact him.
  10. "Instead of receiving the help that she had hoped for, Mr. Cain instead decided to provide her with his idea of a stimulus package." — Lawyer Gloria Allred on Nov. 7 discussing Herman Cain's alleged sexual harassment of her client.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Numbers of the Day: 2.019 and 10.036

  • According to the latest BLS numbers, 2.019 million men and women have been out of work (and still looking) for 99 weeks or more.
  • According to the latest JOLTS report, if you filled every available job opening in the US, you would still have 10.036 million unemployed.

Our Stat Pack has the updated figures.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Chart of the Day: People Receiving Unemployment Insurance Work Harder to Find Jobs

Source: ThinkProgress Economy

A new study from Congress' Joint Economic Committee (JEC) debunks the prevailing conservative notion that Unemployment Insurance (UI) dissuades people from looking for a job. "On the contrary," the report finds, "beneficiaries of federal UI benefits have spent more time searching for work than those who were ineligible for UI benefits." "In fact, since Congress enacted federal unemployment benefits, time spent looking for a job has tripled among the long‐term unemployed who are out of work as a result of job loss," the report adds.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Number of the Day: 877,000

The JOLTS Report for November was released today, which means we'll be updating our Stat Pack shortly.

What's more important is that the House passed HR 3630, the "Middle Class Tax Relief & Job Creation Act of 2011"

From the GOP's legislative digest page, HR 3630:

"would use a two-step process to gradually reduce the current maximum amount of time total benefits could be distributed in states with high unemployment from 99 weeks to 59 weeks by mid-2012."

From the House Ways and Means Committee's one-page summary (PDF link), subtitled "Helping those Struggling in the Obama Economy & Protecting Taxpayers By Reforming and Reducing the Overexpansion of Unemployment Insurance":

"The Middle Class Tax Relief & Job Creation Act bill permanently reforms unemployment insurance (UI) and reduces the current maximum weeks of benefits from 99 to 59 weeks by ending expansions signed into law by President Obama."

"The legislation reduces the maximum benefits from 99 weeks to 59 weeks by mid-2012. This level reflects more 'normal' levels – up to 52 or 59 total weeks of UI have often been paid after recessions since the 1970s.

There's one huge problem with those 'normal' levels, though: we're not coming out of a 'normal' recession, as this chart from Calculated Risk makes perfectly clear:

We've been tracking how many people are out of work, and for how long. As of November's unemployment report, 877,000 men and women have been out of work for between 60 and 98 weeks. That's not counting over 2 million 99ers.

That's 877,000 people who are about to lose a financial lifeline. The House just voted to cut that lifeline short by five months today, and five more months in mid-2012. Perhaps Ways and Means Chairman Camp can explain how cutting UI for 877,000 men and women and their dependents is "helping those struggling."

Monday, December 12, 2011

Charts of the Day: "F" is for Fox, and also for Fail

from Media Matters, by way of Steve Benen:

Based on the chart, unemployment has not changed at all for the past two months, even though it was 9.0% in October and 8.6% in November.

This chart's not as bad as some of the others, but it definitely deserves a place in the pantheon, starting with the infamous 120%:

And continuing with our personal favorite, the supersized pie chart:

Update (12/15/2011) - A new addition to the gallery, courtesy Andrew Sullivan, et al:

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Job Fair - Bridgeport, CT - December 16

Seeking non-profit organizations willing to hiring 99ers at Dec 16 Platform to Employment Job Fair

Are you looking to hire qualified candidates for your company? We can help you!

The Platform to Employment Job Fair is seeking non-profit organizations willing to hiring 99ers. These people have the job skills that can benefit you. They are waiting for a chance to speak with your representatives about open positions at your company. Many are highly skilled, experienced and well-educated individuals who are eager to work for you!

Let us help you identify and recruit the skilled workers your business needs!

Friday, December 16, 2011
1:00 pm - 3:00 pm
350 Fairfield Avenue, 3rd Floor, Bridgeport, CT 06604

This is a free event - reserve your table today by completing the registration form.

Platform to Employment is a WorkPlace Opportunity. The job fair is sponsored by The WorkPlace, Career Resources, Inc. and the Connecticut Department of Labor.

Chart of the Day: Working Americans Get Smaller Slice of Pie

from CNBC:
"Working Americans are now getting the smallest slice of the income pie on record — which, combined with high unemployment, could be behind the slow speed of the economic recovery.
"The decline is not a new trend, but it shows up again in last week's release of third-quarter productivity and costs. The labor share — the amount paid to workers instead of businesses and other income-earning entities — was reported to have fallen to 57.1 cents on the dollar for the business sector, its lowest level since it was first reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 1947.
"J.P. Morgan economist Michael Feroli highlighted the decline in a recent note. He said the pre-2000 average for labor share was 63.9 cents, and if it were still at that level household income would be $780 billion higher, a helpful boost in a period of high unemployment. Even at more recent levels, income would have been $400 billion higher, he says."

One reason for the decline?

"Prior to 1983, a rise in the unemployment rate was accompanied by a counter trend rise in labor share. But that has reversed and now as unemployment worsens, the labor share falls, reflecting a change in corporate behavior. Companies may have previously more been bound by union contracts or discouraged by hiring and firing costs in the past. "

The data is pretty clear: as union membership has dropped, so has middle-class income:

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Even on Wall Street, the Unemployed Need Not Apply

Even the 1% can feel what it's like to be one of the 99%:

"It's the job seeker’s proverbial 'Catch-22.' Many financial firms say they'll only hire you if you are currently employed. That means if you're unemployed, don't even apply. At least that's what employers are telling the recruiters working for them." (source)

This type of discrimination isn't new, and it's been widely reported on.

President Obama's American Jobs Act and Rep. Rosa DeLauro's Fair Employment Opportunity Act would address discrimination like this. Congress, pass these bills. Stop worrying about non-existent "farm dust".

Chart of the Day: Totally Wrecked

linked from Jesse's Café Américain - Categorizing the Unemployed by the Impact of the Recession

From the Rutgers University working paper: (PDF link)

"The full four surveys of the unemployed released earlier chronicle in full how workers have tried to cope with the recession and the economic, social, and psychological costs they have incurred along the way. We’ve picked seven items to profile the typology groups. ... For example, two-thirds of the devastated report having borrowed money from family or friends to stay afloat, as did half of those who have been downsized and a quarter of those who are recovering. Two-thirds of the devastated, 41% of the downsized, and 18% of the recovering report having sold possessions to help make ends meet. Roughly similar numbers — 60% of the devastated, 46% of the downsized, and 23% of the recovering — have cut back on medical visits or treatment. Two-thirds of the devastated and half of the downsized have reduced their spending on food so much that it has affected their daily lives. Almost three quarters of the devastated report feeling embarrassed or ashamed, as do more than half of the downsized and even 43% of the recovering."

Remember, please, that the GOP wants to make things worse, by proposing to cut the number of weeks that the unemployed can receive insurance benefits.

House GOP: you're doing it wrong

From The Hill's reporting on the House GOP's proposal (which includes an extension of the payroll tax cut):

The bill extends for one year the 4.2 percent rate for the payroll tax enacted in 2010, down from its typical 6.2 percent. It extends unemployment insurance benefits while gradually reducing the length of time they can be claimed from 99 weeks to 59 weeks in a two-step process.

The measure also requires beneficiaries to continually search for work and participate in re-employment services. And it allows states to require drug testing as a condition of receiving unemployment benefits.

One question before we go point-by-point: when did the GOP decide that keeping a tax cut in place was a bad idea? What makes this tax cut different than the others they propose?

First: by reducing the number of weeks, you're making the problem worse, not better. As of October, there are about 983,000 people who have been out of work for 60-98 weeks, and another 1.9 million who have been out for 99 weeks or longer. The 99ers have already exhausted insurance benefits - and now the GOP wants to pull that lifeline away from another million people?

Second: people who receive unemployment insurance benefits already have to be actively searching for work:

"An individual who files for unemployment insurance (UI) benefits must meet specific eligibility requirements before benefits can be paid. Individuals must:

  • Have received enough wages during the base period to establish a claim.
  • Be totally or partially unemployed.
  • Be unemployed through no fault of his/her own.
  • Be physically able to work.
  • Be available for work which means to be ready and willing to immediately accept work.
  • Be actively looking for work.
  • Meet eligibility requirements each week benefits are claimed.
  • Be approved for training before training benefits can be paid.

Third: drug-testing? Why is it that the GOP is so hell-bent on kicking people when they're down?

"Several studies, including a 1996 report from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, have found that there is no significant difference in the rate of illegal-drug use by welfare applicants and other people. Another study found that 70% of illegal-drug users between the age of 18 and 49 are employed full time.

"Drug-testing laws are often touted as a way of saving tax dollars, but the facts are once again not quite as presented. Idaho recently commissioned a study of the likely financial impact of drug testing its welfare applicants. The study found that the costs were likely to exceed any money saved." (source)

The House GOP's bill demonstrates their tax-cutting for the rich hypocrisy, attempts to legislate their "punish the poor" morality, and tries to hold the middle class (who benefits most from the payroll tax cuts) hostage to the interests of the rich.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Lee Demands Relief for Long-Term Unemployed

November 30, 2011
Contact: Kristal DeKleer (202) 225-1882

Washington, D.C. – Today, Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA) issued the following statement at a press conference with unemployed workers, labor activists, Labor Secretary Solis, and members of the House and Senate to call for a renewal of federal unemployment insurance programs, scheduled to expire at the end of the year:

"Thank you to Ranking Member Levin, Congressman Doggett, Whip Hoyer, Assistant Leader Clyburn, Senator Harkin, Senator Reed, Senator Whitehouse, and all the other leaders that are working so hard for the millions of Americans struggling to find a job during this holiday season. I would also like to thank Secretary Solis for her leadership and commitment to getting America’s work force back to work.

"As this jobless recovery continues, more and more Americans are long-term unemployed and now the jobs crisis has left so many people out of work for so long that most of America’s unemployed are no longer receiving unemployment benefits.

"2 million Americans have exhausted a full 99 weeks of unemployment and still cannot find a job.

"It is critical that we extend the expiring emergency unemployment insurance benefits before the end of the year, but that extension will not help the millions of Americans who have run out of time, the so-called 99ers. H.R. 589 is my bill to extend unemployment compensation for an additional fourteen weeks for the 99ers – and this bill must be included in an unemployment extension package going forward.

"The AP reports that early last year, 75 percent (of the unemployed) were receiving checks. The figure is now 48 percent — a shift that points to a growing crisis of long-term unemployment. Nearly one-third of America's 14 million unemployed have had no job for a year or more.

"Providing support for America’s long-term unemployed will not only boost our stalled economy, but it will keep millions of families out of poverty which is the morally right thing to do. We need to reignite the American Dream and work to provide ladders of opportunity for all. We need UI extension and we need it now. Not just for the millions about to run out, but for the millions who ran out a long time ago."


Follow Barbara Lee on Twitter @RepBarbaraLee

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Businessweek - Raise Taxes on Rich to Reward True Job Creators: Nick Hanauer

Nick Hanauer is a founder of Second Avenue Partners, a venture capital company in Seattle specializing in early state startups and emerging technology. He has helped launch more than 20 companies, including aQuantive Inc. and He's written an op-ed in BusinessWeek that's required reading for anyone who wants to understand why demand is the key to solving the economic crisis we're in:

"I'm a very rich person. As an entrepreneur and venture capitalist, I've started or helped get off the ground dozens of companies in industries including manufacturing, retail, medical services, the Internet and software. I founded the Internet media company aQuantive Inc., which was acquired by Microsoft Corp. in 2007 for $6.4 billion. I was also the first non-family investor in Inc.

"Even so, I’ve never been a 'job creator.' I can start a business based on a great idea, and initially hire dozens or hundreds of people. But if no one can afford to buy what I have to sell, my business will soon fail and all those jobs will evaporate.

"That's why I can say with confidence that rich people don't create jobs, nor do businesses, large or small. What does lead to more employment is the feedback loop between customers and businesses. And only consumers can set in motion a virtuous cycle that allows companies to survive and thrive and business owners to hire. An ordinary middle-class consumer is far more of a job creator than I ever have been or ever will be."

It's that same virtuous cycle we're aiming for with regards to helping the 99ers - the only way the economy will recover is when more people can put more money into circulation by buying goods and services.

Remember that roughly 71% of our gross domestic product comes from consumer spending:

It's clear that if we want a healthy, growing economy, we want more people spending, not fewer.

Look at it from a different perspective: think of the difference between one billionaire and 1,000 millionaires. They both have the same amount of wealth, but the 1,000 can purchase much, much more than the one.

Now imagine that it's 4,000 people with a quarter million dollars each. Or 10,000 people with 100,000 dollars each. Or 20,000 people with 50,000 dollars each.

More consumers means more demand for goods and services. More demand means more sales, more work, more jobs... a growing, healthy economy.