Quick Hits

The DNC’s Rules and Bylaws Committee has quietly decided to keep SuperDelegates though the committee has voted to dilute the superdelegates’ influence mostly by increasing the number of ordinary delegates. The full story in Newsweek.

Paul Krugman worries that US policymakers will view the US unemployment problem as a structural one and beyond their control and thus resolve to do nothing about it.

California's high court on Monday upheld the state's 14-year-old law barring preferential treatment of women and minorities in public school admissions, government hiring and contracting. In a 6-1 ruling, the state Supreme Court rejected arguments from the city of San Francisco and Attorney General Jerry Brown that the law, known as Proposition 209, violates federal equality protections. Opponents of the ban say it creates barriers for minorities and women that don't exist for other groups, such as veterans seeking preference. The story from the Associated Press.

The New York Times profiles Chris Dudley, the former NBA player for the Portland Trailblazers currently running for Governor in Oregon. Dudley is using the McDonnell-Christie playbook in hopes of becoming the first Republican to be elected Governor of Oregon since 1982.

The Los Angeles Times looks at Arizona's transition from being a state that was welcoming to immigrants to becoming the epicenter of anti-immigrant bashing.

Quick Hits

A roundup of other stories and interesting reads.

The Senate gave final approval late Wednesday evening to legislation providing added unemployment benefits through November to millions of Americans who have been out of work for six months or more by 59 to 39 margin. The House is expected to pass the measure tomorrow. The complete story in the New York Times.

A multimedia presentation produced by Latoya Egwuekwe: The Geography of a Recession.

Jim Hightower on Grinning Bankers.

The teen unemployment rate in June was at 25.7 percent—about three times the national rate of 9.5 percent—and up from last year's rate of 24.3 percent: Unemployed Teens.

Cash-hungry states eye online retail for tax revenue. The story in the Los Angeles Times.

Ta-Nehisi Coates of The Atlantic offers his take on the Shirley Sherrod case and the response of the Obama Administration in a post entitled Lacking All Conviction while Matt Yglesias of Think Progress on JournoList faux scandal writes that "at some point conservatives need to ask themselves about the larger meaning of this kind of conduct—and Andrew Breitbart’s—for their movement. Beyond the ethics of lying and smear one’s opponents, I would think conservatives would worry about the fact that a large portion of conservative media is dedicated to lying to conservatives. They regard their audience as marks to be misled and exploited, not as customers to be served with useful information." Somehow I don't think we arrived at that point.

Barack Gets His Partisan Groove Back

I'm sure it's only a temporary hiatus from the bipartisan why can't we all just along and split the difference Barack Obama but the President in a rare but welcomed departure from established form chose to assail the GOP for its obstructionism first over the weekend in his weekly address and then again today.

The New York Times provides coverage of today's Rose Garden berating of the GOP:

President Obama called on Congress on Monday to pass an extension of unemployment benefits, and leveled a sharp critique against Republican senators who have stopped passage of a bill that would give some relief to out-of-work Americans.

Under pressure in an election year to reduce the unemployment rate, now at 9.5 percent, Mr. Obama also urged the Senate to approve a package of tax cuts and an expansion of lending to small businesses. “We all have to continue our efforts to do everything in our power to spur growth and hiring,” Mr. Obama said at the White House.

Senate Democrats are expected to bring the unemployment insurance bill back up on Tuesday, after they swear in another Democrat, Carte Goodwin of West Virginia, to be the interim successor to Robert C. Byrd, who died last month. Mr. Goodwin will provide Democrats with the 60th vote they need to close debate and pass the measure.

An estimated 2.1 million Americans have seen their unemployment benefits expire in recent months as they waited for an end to the impasse in the Senate over extending the payments once more to the long-term unemployed. Most Republican lawmakers have balked at extending the benefits without offsetting spending cuts, saying they do not want to add to the budget deficit and the national debt.

Some Republican politicians have also argued that continuing to extend unemployment benefits offers a disincentive for the jobless to find work.

Mr. Obama, appearing before reporters in the Rose Garden flanked by three Americans who have had difficulty finding work, took aim at that argument. “That attitude reflects a lack of faith in the American people,” Mr. Obama said. “They’re not looking for a handout. They desperately want to work.”

Mr. Obama sharply criticized Republicans who have several times in the past month voted against bringing an unemployment extension bill to the Senate floor.

“After years of championing policies that turned a record surplus into a massive deficit, the same people who didn’t have any problem spending hundreds of billions of dollars on tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans are now saying we shouldn’t offer relief to middle-class Americans like Jim or Leslie or Denise, who really need help,” Mr. Obama said, referring to the three people who stood with him in the Rose Garden, brought to Washington by the White House to help illustrate the president’s point.

It's not that he doesn't have accomplishments of note, he does, and it's not that he isn't capable of the task, because he is an immensely talented individual and a gifted politician who brought down the House of Clinton but it is almost as if he is going through the motions when it comes to tackling the number one problem in the way that Washington works - the unrelenting politics of obstructionism from an unhinged GOP. There are voices of sanity in the Republican party but they are overshadowed by the radical ideologues that want not just to undo the New Deal but the entire 19th century. I don't know about you but as much I love reading about the Enlightenment I don't want to live in 1789.

A Mea Culpa on US Unemployment

Yup, the June unemployment numbers are out, the numbers are bleak and it is all my fault. Having attempted to re-enter the world of the employed earlier this year and having found zero reception, I stopped looking for work. The unemployment number dipped in June not because more jobs were added but rather because 652,000 Americans including myself abandoned the labour market this month. That, in a nutshell, is what is going on in the US labour market.

First, an overview from the New York Times:

The United States added just 83,000 private-sector jobs in June, a dishearteningly low number that could add to the growing number of economists who warn that the economic recovery has slowed to the point that it cannot generate enough job growth.

Over all, the nation lost 125,000 jobs, according to the monthly snapshot of the job market released by the Labor Department on Friday. Most of the lost jobs came as temporary workers hired by the federal government for the 2010 Census exited their jobs. The unemployment rate, based on a different survey, declined to 9.5 percent in June from the previous 9.7 percent. This decline came only because the nation’s labor force shrank by 652,000 jobs, as many people stopped looking for work.

Just as last month’s government job report appeared deceptively robust, swollen by 411,000 workers hired by the federal government to help with the Census, so the June report appears deceptively anemic, as the government shed many of those same temporary Census workers.

And signs of strength could be spotted. Although quite weak by historic standards, the 83,000 private-sector jobs created in June more than doubled the count in May. And in the first six months of last year, the nation lost 3.7 million private-sector jobs; during the first six months of this year it gained 590,000. Manufacturing continued a modest revival, as manufacturers added 9,000 jobs after hiring 32,000 in May. Amusement, gambling and recreation businesses added 28,000, as one might expect coming into the summer.

The unemployment rate declined two tenths of one percent not because more jobs were added but rather because people stopped beating their heads against the wall and stopped looking for work. Just for the record adding 83,000 jobs falls far short of the number required to just keep running in place. The economy needs about 130,000 to 150,000 jobs just to keep pace with new workers entering the market. Given that over 15 million are unemployed with another 12 million underemployed - technically the category I fall into - the situation is indeed dire. So while the official unemployment rate is now 9.5 percent, the broader U6 rate that includes marginalized workers is 16.5 percent.

There's more...

$15 Billion Jobs Plan Passes the House

The US House of Representatives has approved a $15 billion jobs bill that intends to spur job creation by granting payroll tax breaks to businesses that hire new workers. The House vote was 217 to 201 with 35 Democrats voting against the measure. Six Republicans voted for the jobs bill. Among the Republicans who crossed over and voted for the bill were Don Young of Alaska, Anh Cao of Louisiana Vernon Ehlers of Michigan and Dave Camp of Michigan.

A number of progressive Democrats did not vote for the bill. This group included Maxine Waters (CA-35), Jared Polis (CO-02), Raúl Grijalva (AZ-07), Sheila Jackson-Lee (TX-18) and Barbara Lee (CA-09). Congressman Grijalva, one of the leaders of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, had dismissed the tax-credit focused bill as not “dealing with job creation.”

Other opposition to the bill came from the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC). Congressmen Bobby Rush (IL-01), Marcia Fudge (OH-11) Jesse Jackson Jr. (IL-02), Hank Johnson (GA-04) were among those who voted against the bill. On the other hand, Congressman Gregory Meeks (NY-06), one of the leaders of the Congressional Black Caucus, did vote for the bill. The CBC’s position during the month long debate on the $15 billion jobs tax credit package was fairly straightforward — CBC members don’t want to back a bill that was composed of tax breaks for business which they don’t believe will necessarily create jobs when other job-creating programs the CBC supports, such a summer youth jobs program, face an uncertain future in the Senate.

The Democratic leadership in the House, meanwhile, emphasized that this bill is just "one part" of the overall approach to job creation and that there would be additional legislation aimed at tackling the nation's highest levels of unemployment since the Great Depression in the months ahead. More on the jobs bill at the New York Times.


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