Weekly Audit: Millions of Americans Could Lose Unemployment Benefits

Editor’s Note: Happy Thanksgiving from the Media Consortium! This week, we aren’t stopping The Audit, The Pulse, The Diaspora, or The Mulch, but we are taking a bit of a break. Expect shorter blog posts, and The Diaspora and The Mulch will be posted on Wednesday afternoon, instead of their usual Thursday and Friday postings. We’ll return to our normal schedule next week.

by Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium blogger

According to official statistics, nearly 15 million Americans are unemployed. Between 2 and 4 million of them are expected to exhaust their state unemployment insurance benefits between now and May. Historically, during times of high unemployment, Congress provides extra cash to extend the benefits. Congress has never failed to do so when unemployment is above 7.2%. Today’s unemployment rate is above 9% and the lame duck session of Congress has so far failed to extend the benefits.

Congress has until November 30 to renew two federal programs to extend unemployment benefits, as David Moberg reports for Working In These Times. Last week, a bill to extend benefits for an additional three months failed to garner the two-thirds majority it needed to pass in the House. The House will probably take up the issue again this session, possibly for a one-year extension, but as Moberg notes, it’s unclear how the bill will fare in the Senate. The implications are dire, as Moberg notes:

The result? Not just huge personal and familial hardships that scars the lives of young and old both economically and psychologically for years to come.  But failure to renew extended benefits would also slow the recovery, raise unemployment, and deepen the fiscal crises of state and federal governments.

But wait! There’s more:

  • The Paycheck Fairness Act died in the Senate last week, as Denise DiStephan reports in The Nation. The bill would have updated the 1963 Equal Pay Act to close loopholes and protect employees against employer retaliation for discussing wages. All Republican senators and Nebraska Democrat Ben Nelson voted not to bring the bill to the floor, killing the legislation for this session of Congress. The House already passed its version of the bill in 2009 and President Barack Obama had pledged to sign it.
  • Economist Dean Baker talks with Laura Flanders of GritTV about quantitative easing (a.k.a. the Fed printing more money) and the draft proposal from the co-chairs of the deficit commission. Baker argues that we’re facing an unemployment crisis, not a deficit crisis.
  • Charles Ferguson’s documentary “Inside Job” is a must-see, according to Matthew Rothschild of The Progressive. An examination of how Wall Street devastated the U.S. economy, the film details the reckless speculation in housing derivatives, enabled by crooked credit rating schemes, that brought the entire financial system to the brink of collapse. The film is narrated by Brad Pitt and features appearances by former Governor and anti-Wall Street corruption crusader Eliot Spitzer, financier George Soros, and Prof. Nouriel Roubini, the New York University economist who predicted the collapse of the housing bubble.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the economy by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Audit for a complete list of articles on economic issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, health care and immigration issues, check out The Mulch, The Pulse and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

 

 

Weekly Audit: Millions of Americans Could Lose Unemployment Benefits

Editor’s Note: Happy Thanksgiving from the Media Consortium! This week, we aren’t stopping The Audit, The Pulse, The Diaspora, or The Mulch, but we are taking a bit of a break. Expect shorter blog posts, and The Diaspora and The Mulch will be posted on Wednesday afternoon, instead of their usual Thursday and Friday postings. We’ll return to our normal schedule next week.

by Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium blogger

According to official statistics, nearly 15 million Americans are unemployed. Between 2 and 4 million of them are expected to exhaust their state unemployment insurance benefits between now and May. Historically, during times of high unemployment, Congress provides extra cash to extend the benefits. Congress has never failed to do so when unemployment is above 7.2%. Today’s unemployment rate is above 9% and the lame duck session of Congress has so far failed to extend the benefits.

Congress has until November 30 to renew two federal programs to extend unemployment benefits, as David Moberg reports for Working In These Times. Last week, a bill to extend benefits for an additional three months failed to garner the two-thirds majority it needed to pass in the House. The House will probably take up the issue again this session, possibly for a one-year extension, but as Moberg notes, it’s unclear how the bill will fare in the Senate. The implications are dire, as Moberg notes:

The result? Not just huge personal and familial hardships that scars the lives of young and old both economically and psychologically for years to come.  But failure to renew extended benefits would also slow the recovery, raise unemployment, and deepen the fiscal crises of state and federal governments.

But wait! There’s more:

  • The Paycheck Fairness Act died in the Senate last week, as Denise DiStephan reports in The Nation. The bill would have updated the 1963 Equal Pay Act to close loopholes and protect employees against employer retaliation for discussing wages. All Republican senators and Nebraska Democrat Ben Nelson voted not to bring the bill to the floor, killing the legislation for this session of Congress. The House already passed its version of the bill in 2009 and President Barack Obama had pledged to sign it.
  • Economist Dean Baker talks with Laura Flanders of GritTV about quantitative easing (a.k.a. the Fed printing more money) and the draft proposal from the co-chairs of the deficit commission. Baker argues that we’re facing an unemployment crisis, not a deficit crisis.
  • Charles Ferguson’s documentary “Inside Job” is a must-see, according to Matthew Rothschild of The Progressive. An examination of how Wall Street devastated the U.S. economy, the film details the reckless speculation in housing derivatives, enabled by crooked credit rating schemes, that brought the entire financial system to the brink of collapse. The film is narrated by Brad Pitt and features appearances by former Governor and anti-Wall Street corruption crusader Eliot Spitzer, financier George Soros, and Prof. Nouriel Roubini, the New York University economist who predicted the collapse of the housing bubble.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the economy by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Audit for a complete list of articles on economic issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, health care and immigration issues, check out The Mulch, The Pulse and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

 

 

Sarah Palin as Policy Wonk

It would have probably been fair to say of Sarah Palin that until a few days ago 'policy wonk' would have been an unlikely description, love her or loathe her, of any facet of her complex relationship with American politics. But now this:
I’m deeply concerned about the Federal Reserve’s plans to buy up anywhere from $600 billion to as much as $1 trillion of government securities. The technical term for it is “quantitative easing.” It means our government is pumping money into the banking system by buying up treasury bonds. And where, you may ask, are we getting the money to pay for all this? We’re printing it out of thin air. Sarah Palin via Robert Costa- Palin to Bernanke: ‘Cease and Desist’ National Review 7 Nov 10
That's very interesting on a lot of levels. The piece is coherent and sober and, more importantly, it is aimed directly at a weak point in the current administration's monetary policy and an electoral vulnerability in the allegiances of establishment Republicans in the newly constituted House of Representatives. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, the champion of this recently announced second round of 'quantitative easing,' promised Congress on 3 June 2009 that the Federal Reserve would not 'monetise the debt' of the US government, in other words just print money "out of thin air." But that seems to be exactly what we are now proposing to do and there are dissenting opinions within the Federal Reserve system itself:
For the next eight months, the nation’s central bank will be monetizing the federal debt. This is risky business. We know that history is littered with the economic carcasses of nations that incorporated this as a regular central bank practice. So how can the ['quantitative easing'] decision made last Wednesday be justified? Richard W Fischer - Recent Decisions of the Federal Open Market Committee: A Bridge to Fiscal Sanity? Federal Reserve of Dallas 8 Nov 10
So which is it? Well, that all depends on whose telling the story. But it's already a done deal. There is a lot of chatter on the financial blogs that 'quantitative easing' is a stealth bailout, that it is an opportunity for financial institutions to improve liquidity by taking positions in advance of government bond purchases and that it will result in considerable inflation of basic commodities and weaken the dollar internationally. And it is hard to argue that this analysis is inaccurate given the Federal Reserves somewhat desperate position to get money moving again in the US economy without it being squirrelled away by the manufacturing and retail sectors against better times. In fact, there are increasingly vocal objections from the Left and the Right over this latest Federal Reserve policy. So what is Sarah's play? Well, back on 22 September the third-ranking Congressional Republican weighed in:
Washington, DC – Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), Vice Chair of the House Republican Conference, released the following statement today after the Federal Reserve announced it will inflate the currency by $600 billion in a new round of "quantitative easing." "I am strongly opposed to the Fed’s decision to debase the American dollar by $600 billion.  While the Fed claims its action will ‘stimulate’ the economy, it will fail just as badly as President Obama’s ‘stimulus’ because it promotes short-term consumption, debt, and uncertainty in the private sector while penalizing working families, retirees, and especially entrepreneurs who need a large pool of savings to start new businesses, expand current ones, and stay on the cutting-edge."   Karl Denninger - Cathy McMorris (R-WA-5) Condemns Bernanke Market Ticker 3 Nov 10
But since then? Crickets... Interestingly enough most within the establishment Republican leadership have said nothing on this issue. No prizes guessing why. And Sarah has now stepped up to the plate with a policy Republicans will be squirming to argue against, no matter what their lobbyists are telling them. This seems a reasonably mainstream Republican position for the Tea Party caucus to rally behind as an opening gambit against traditional House Republicans with the Obama administration as the ultimate target. We'll see. The price of petrol at the bowser and basic commodities like food will be the success indicators for this strategy and if they go up one could expect some mileage out of this in the short term. Sarah seems to be betting they will and she may be taking good advice. Anything else is just wishful thinking. As for more long term issues, consider the long-standing and rarely mentioned Tea Party policy of 'auditing the Fed.' This has support from both the Tea Party and some progressives. Have a look at HR 1207, the Federal Reserve Transparency Act of 2009, a Ron Paul bill from the 111th Congress with three-hundred and twenty cosponsors, including Michelle Bachmann, Alan Grayson and Dennis Kucinich. That's the kind of populist issue that might prove an easy victory to the first claimant. Establishment Republicans may be in for more than they bargained for with their Tea Party cohort but if this wave catches it could be enough to inundate unwary Democrats as well. The presidential election in 2012 will be fought on issues of economic populism and Sarah Palin may have just fired the opening salvo. Cross-posted at Daily Kos and Red State

Obama: Corruption We Can Believe In

Glenn Greenwald has recently posted a very abstract jeremiad about our corrupt "establishment," with multiple concurring citations from Atrios,Paul Krugman,Matt Taibbi,Armando, (Big Tent Democrat on TalkLeft), and even Eliot Spitzer, recently returned from the dead by a collective realization that he was right about everything.

Our "establishment" is corrupt, and public outrage about the AIG bonuses is a very good thing, because it scares the corrupt "elite," and fear is the only force that can control those monsters.

This is only half right, as far as it goes, but it doesn't go quite far enough, and stops at a politically safe distance from the Oval Office, which is exactly where the buck is supposed to stop, and where Barack Obama continues to enable and support the most corrupt financial "establishment" since almost exactly the same corrupt "establishment" produced the Great Depression.

There's more...

Michelle Obama, in proportion to $1 Trillion

It isn't easy to represent even a minimal estimate of the amount of money which has already been committed to melting banks, even leaving aside the latest addition of $1 trillion in "quantitative easing," and the graphic below is just another try.

A dollar bill is about 6" by 2.5". A stack of 100 dollar bills is about 1" high. So $100 is about 15 cubic inches. $1 trillion is accordingly about 10 billion times 15 cubic inches, or 150,000,000,000 cubic inches. One cubic foot is 12 x 12 x 12 inches, or 1728 cubic inches. 150,000,000,000 divided by 1728 is about 86,500,000 cubic feet. This is about the same volume as an 82 storey building, 440 feet wide, and 220 feet deep. Michelle Obama is about 6 feet tall.

Photobucket

There's more...

Diaries

Advertise Blogads