Saturday, July 27, 2013

Rep. Frederica Wilson: Reintroducing the American Jobs Act

Ms. WILSON of Florida. Mr. Speaker, it's now been 934 days since I came to Congress and there has not been a single vote on serious legislation to address our unemployment crisis.

Amidst the distractions, amidst the scandals, amidst the tragedies, the single overriding focus of the American people remains the same: jobs and the economy. The polls speak volumes.

Mr. Speaker, today I'm taking an important step to end distractions and get the Congress back to work for the people, for the unemployed, for the suffering. Today, I am reintroducing President Obama's American Jobs Act, which expired last year without even reaching the House floor. The American Jobs Act is popular for a reason: independent analysts have shown it would create 1.9 million jobs.

Mr. Speaker, bring this bill to a vote and you will restore public trust in the Congress of the United States of America. The American Jobs Act deserves a vote. Mr. Speaker, our mantra should be: jobs, jobs, jobs.

Rep. Wilson's bill is H. R. 2821 - we've added it to the bill tracker on the right.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Pathways Back to Work Act (2013) Introduced

Neil Ridley, writing at the Center for Law and Social Policy:

Four years after the official end of the Great Recession, the economy is improving, but the nation is struggling with slow job growth and high unemployment. The national unemployment rate is expected to remain above 7.5 percent through 2014, according to the Congressional Budget Office’s Budget and Economic Outlook. Long-term unemployment, in particular, remains at record levels: nearly two out of five of the unemployed, or about 4 million workers, have been out of work for more than six months and large numbers have been jobless for more than a year. Numerous studies confirm that it is very difficult for long-term unemployed workers to re-enter the workforce.

Last week, Rep. George Miller (D-CA), together with other House members, introduced the Pathways Back to Work Act, which is modeled on provisions in the President’s FY 2014 budget request. The bill would create work and educational opportunities for long-term unemployed workers and low-income adults and youth, who are at risk of being left behind as the economy recovers from the Great Recession.

We've added H. R. 2721 to the Bill Tracker in the sidebar on the right. Now would be a great time to make your voice heard.

Barely Legal Things Employers Do To Keep Unemployed Applicants Out

Business Insider reports on the ongoing efforts of employers to discriminate against the long-term unemployed:

Employers don't want to look at the resumes of unemployed people. In fact, they don't even want those resumes sent to them.

Some employers will actually do whatever it takes — without doing anything illegal — to prevent the unemployed from applying for positions at their company.

The reasoning behind this comes from the belief that unemployed people are not as talented as those who are able to keep their jobs. This said, bringing them in for an interview — and turning them down based on their unemployment — will build a stronger case for discrimination against the employer. Therefore, employers will try to exclude these candidates by using certain restrictive language in the job posting.

Read the full article for a description of three ways employers are screening out the people who need these jobs the most.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Politicize This

"To the families and victims of the tragedy, we offer our condolences and prayers," said Dudley Brown, executive director of Rocky Mountain Gun Owners. "To Mayor Bloomberg and the group that would politicize this, we offer our opposition."

The quote comes from an article on The Huffington Post about a vigil held on the one-year anniversary of the shootings in Aurora, Colorado.

"Don't politicize this." What do people mean when they say that?

When Theo Caldwell said "Don't politicize the IRS - end it," he argued that "the IRS should not be overseeing political speech in the first place."

That's not what the IRS was doing: they were reviewing applications filed by groups who were requesting tax exempt status as 501(c)(4) social work organizations.

When Jennifer Rubin said "Obama can't stop politicizing the courts," she argued that "the president seems to have little sense of the division between politics and law. It is all one big blur, and when convenient, legal cases are simply another opportunity to stir his base."

She may have missed this part towards the beginning of the President's comments:

"The judge conducted the trial in a professional manner. The prosecution and the defense made their arguments. The juries were properly instructed that in a -- in a case such as this, reasonable doubt was relevant, and they rendered a verdict. And once the jury's spoken, that’s how our system works."

Maybe not so much with the blurring.

Scott Spiegel of Red Alert Politics offers the clearest explanation I've seen of what a conservative means by politicization in the following two quotes:

"Conservatives' definition of politicization is: liberals treating them unfairly for partisan reasons. Liberals' definition of politicization is: conservatives pointing out something they did wrong."
"Conservatives know what it's like to have their actions politicized; they live with it every day. Politicization means a constant stream of harassment from supposedly neutral organizations like the IRS and the mainstream media. It means being in the center of an endless maelstrom of invective and facing staggering odds against ever getting their message out."

What are the common threads in these arguments?

The first is this message: "Don't interfere. If you're a political figure, and especially if you're on the political left, don't interfere with our rights as gun owners. Don't interfere with our speech. Don't interfere with our legal rights. Don't interfere when we do the things we do." It's the political right talking at people, instead of talking to them. It's this blog's First Law of the Right: they want to rule, not lead.

The second is this message "We think you're making us out to be the bad guys. We're not." It may not be victimization, but it's close. It's "he's picking on me" writ large.

The problem is, that's not politicization. Politicization puts a private issue into the public sphere. The Aurora shooting weren't a private affair: they affected the public at large. Tax policies are public policies. Rubin was closest to the mark, except for the fact that the President specifically told the nation that the legal system worked. Politicization isn't harrassment, and neither is it criticism.

This is politicization:

We're running away from ourselves, and I know we can score points that way. I was the principle architect in that campaign strategy, right along with you, Josh. But we're here now. Tomorrow night, we do an immense thing. We have to say what we feel. That government, no matter what its failures are in the past, and in times to come, for that matter, the government can be a place where people come together and where no one gets left behind. No one... gets left behind, an instrument of... good.

Politics is the arena in which people come together to solve they problems they cannot solve as individuals. There is a time and a place to put issues into the political arena. There is a time and a place to politicize things. We can't be afraid to solve problems together: doing so is what the Founders intended us to do, when they aspired to form a more perfect union.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Koch Brothers Have Questions. Doctors Have Answers.

h/t OccupyDemocrats:

While the Koch brothers are counting on their shameless campaign in order to spread misinformation about this important reform that will improve access and quality of care for tens of millions of Americans, it is up to every informed American to spread the facts about Pres. Obama’s signature achievement.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

This Is What Fighting A Losing Battle Looks Like

Or, as Jamelle Bouie puts it: "Obamacare puts Republicans in a bind"

Monday, July 15, 2013

Not The News Job-Seekers Want To Read

From the Herald Tribune:

"Suncoast Workforce - Southwest Florida's chief job assistance agency - is operating on $1.75 million less this fiscal year as a result of sequestration and other federal funding cuts.

"The cuts were bigger than anticipated and the group had to eliminate 12 positions in late May to get to its current payroll of 101."

Firing people whose job is to help the unemployed find jobs? Not the budget decision I would make.

Reaching Out... With The Back Of The GOP's Hand

Paul Krugman, in his op-ed "Hunger Games, U.S.A.":

"Somehow, one of our nation's two great parties has become infected by an almost pathological meanspiritedness, a contempt for what CNBC's Rick Santelli, in the famous rant that launched the Tea Party, called "losers." If you're an American, and you're down on your luck, these people don't want to help; they want to give you an extra kick. I don't fully understand it, but it's a terrible thing to behold."


Sunday, July 14, 2013

On the Politics of Abortion

This is an excerpt from "Beyond Abortion — A Common Good Feminism for the Twenty-First Century" published on the website for Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good

"Few issues are as contentious as the issue of abortion. Hard-line activists dominate both the pro-life and pro-choice movements, promoting absolutist positions and a combative approach that leaves little room for compromise. The result is that not nearly enough has been accomplished in one area where there is a large consensus: reducing the abortion rate.

"People of good will and sound mind can fall on either side of the abortion issue, but few reasonable people would contest the desirability of reducing the abortion rate. Most pro-choice women concede that abortion is in some sense tragic. This is why they reject the label pro-abortion. And by embracing choice, it is clear that they want women to have real choices, not feel compelled to procure abortions out of economic necessity. For pro-lifers, their activism is either about saving the lives of individual unborn children who each have dignity and worth or it’s a political game that has become divorced from its initial inspiration. Neither ideological extremism nor partisanship should stand in the way of accomplishing this worthy goal.

"The time has come to dial down the nasty rhetoric and the perpetual vitriol and work together on a goal everyone can agree on without compromising their deepest values: to create a country whose political and economic structures, whose social and cultural values, make it a place where abortion is no longer needed or desired by pregnant women. The conflict over the legality of abortion will inevitably persist, but feminists on both sides of the issue can and should work together on issues where there is common ground."

April 4, 1968; July 13, 2013

"Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget
falls drop by drop upon the heart
until, in our own despair, against our will,
comes wisdom through the awful grace of God."

"What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence and lawlessness, but is love and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or whether they be black.

"So I ask you tonight to return home, to say a prayer... for our own country, which all of us love - a prayer for understanding and that compassion of which I spoke. We can do well in this country. We will have difficult times. We've had difficult times in the past. And we will have difficult times in the future. It is not the end of violence; it is not the end of lawlessness; and it's not the end of disorder.

"But the vast majority of white people and the vast majority of black people in this country want to live together, want to improve the quality of our life, and want justice for all human beings that abide in our land.

"Let us dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world."

Robert F. Kennedy - April 4, 1968

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Thank you, Obamacare

In today's inbox:

Dear (name),

I'm writing to let you know that in the next few weeks, Freelancers Insurance Company will be mailing you a rebate check.

We're happy to be sending this rebate to you as part of our commitment to health care for independent workers, and in support of health reforms that were enacted last year.

But to ensure you can receive your check as soon as possible, we need your current mailing address. Please sign in to your account and verify that your address is up to date by next Wednesday, July 17.

Why are we sending you this check? A new guideline made by the Affordable Care Act - called the Medical Loss Ratio (MLR) - now requires insurance providers in New York State to spend at least 80% of premiums on health care services and quality improvement programs, and no more than 20% on administrative costs. Each year, we project how much that 80% will be. In 2012, medical costs for things like prescription drugs and procedures did not rise as much as we estimated, and we were able to help people be healthy and get the care they need for less. In addition to that, we always work to maximize the collective purchasing power of our members where we can to contain costs. In 2012, our costs were managed so well that in addition to having a 0% premium increase in 2013, we are able to provide our members with this MLR rebate.

You'll be receiving more background information with your check, but if you have any questions before then, please feel free to get in touch with my team at (email) or (phone).

Manager of Customer Service

This example illustrates the point Jon Favreau is making in this article - "The GOP Is Terrified Obamacare Could Be A Success". Each time someone gets a note like this in the mail, is one more time people will ask why the GOP wants to repeal Obamacare.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Changes Coming

Over the next month, this blog will undergo some changes in layout, content and direction.

As long as the economy leaves the 99ers, and more generally, the long-term unemployed behind, we will remain a voice for them.

But other issues relate to the plight of the 99ers, and this blog will expand to include those topics, too.

From time to time, we'll also look at issues of the day, particularly from the Liberal/Progressive/Democratic point of view.

Watch this space. And as always, your suggestions are welcomed.