Archive for category Economy
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Americans have a new No. 1 problem. Nearly one in four Americans mention jobs and unemployment as the most important problem facing the country, up from 16% in January. The government and politicians had topped the list since the government shutdown in October.
For the moment at least, right-wing Republicans have stopped deliberately trying to plunge us into another Great Depression. Maybe we can do start doing something about the mess they created. Too bad Dems have given up trying to re-take the House of Representatives. Howard Dean wouldn’t have given up if he were still in charge.
Thomas Perkins is an 82-year-old venture capitalist worth an estimated $8 billion. He doesn’t like democracy. Unfortunately for us, people like him hold the balance of power in today’s America.
Asked for an idea that could “change the world” by FORTUNE’s Adam Lashinsky, Perkins told an audience at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco on Thursday that Americans shouldn’t be able to vote unless they pay taxes and that the wealthy should have more votes.
Perkins has houses in Belvedere, Marin County, California, and spends about two months a year at Plumpton Place, his Elizabethan mansion in East Sussex, England, which once belonged to the Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page. In 2010 he purchased the penthouse atop the Millennium Tower on Mission Street in San Francisco’s financial district.
You may remember this guy from his WSJ letter to the editor that compared what he called the “progressive war on the American one percent” to the Nazi death camps under Adolf Hitler.
When I say that capitalism is antithetical to democracy, or that the 1 Percent are trying to parlay their plutonomy into a plutocracy, this is an example of what I mean.
While a major media news blackout provides cover, Congress is debating whether to give the president the authority to fast-track a massive free trade agreement, the secretly-negotiated Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). Members of Congress haven’t even been able to read it even though corporate lobbyists have.
President Obama is at odds with Democrats in both houses of Congress concerning reauthorizing a procedure called the “trade promotion authority” (TPA), that would grant the White House power to submit free trade deals to Congress for an up-or-down vote without amendments. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is strongly against it.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has now publicly opposed giving President Obama fast track authority.
“We need transparency. We need a seat at the table to understand what they believe they are doing, so we can make it better. And if we don’t make it better, then we will not accept a path that is a job loser.”
TPP is part of the plan for global corporatocracy run by and for the 1 Percent. Unelected lobbyists and trade representatives are at the table, while representatives from the public at large and businesses other than huge monopolies, are conspicuously absent. From what little we know of the agreement, it would violate the U.S. Constitution, weaken environmental protections, and lead to more job losses, erosion of wages, and worsening inequality. TPP also threatens freedom of speech on the Internet because it would extend restrictive intellectual property laws and rewrite international rules on enforcement.
Via Think Progress:
A Utah school’s child nutrition manager threw out the lunches of about 40 elementary school students this week after the kids’ parents fell behind on payment.
Some parents at Uintah Elementary in Salt Lake City say they didn’t even realize they were indebted to the school. The school apparently made calls Monday and Tuesday telling some parents that there was a balance on their accounts, and the children of those who had missed the call were the ones whose lunches got thrown out.
…The children were given milk and fruit instead of a full lunch — the meal that the school says it gives any child who isn’t able to pay.
“So she took my lunch away and said, ‘Go get a milk,’ ” recalled one student, a fifth grader named Sophia. “I came back and asked, ‘What’s going on?’ Then she handed me an orange. She said, ‘You don’t have any money in your account so you can’t get lunch.’”
Parents were outraged by the move, calling it “traumatic and humiliating.”
There is no such thing as a free lunch. As any libertarian or right-winger can tell you.
Year after year in his annual address to Congress, President Obama describes the state of the Union as “strong.” That adjective doesn’t describe the increasingly desperate and shrinking American middle class.
According to the Pew Research Center, the proportion of Americans who identify themselves as middle class has dropped sharply in recent years.
The nationally representative survey of 1,504 adults conducted Jan. 15-19 found that the share of Americans who identify with the middle class has never been lower, dropping to 44% in the latest survey from 53% in 2008 during the first months of the Great Recession.
…Economists also report a lack of jobs growth in middle-skill, middle-income jobs. An analysis by the New York Federal Reserve Bank found that employment in middle-skill jobs increased by 46% from 1980 to 2009. Meanwhile, employment in low-skill jobs increased 110% and employment in high-skill jobs increased 100%. This phenomenon of “jobs polarization” is perhaps most assiduously studied by David Autor, an MIT economist. His research demonstrates that employment growth over the past three decades has steadily gravitated toward low-skill jobs.
Tonight, President Obama’s challenge is not to explain or sympathize with the plight of the middle class, but to tell us what he’s going to do –as President– to solve the problem of rising income inequality. Relying on Congress is not a plan!
Obama has been urging Congress to use its “fast-track authority” to sign off on the still-unfinished deal between 12 Pacific nations. If lawmakers agree to fast-track the measure, they wouldn’t be able to offer amendments and would have to take an up-or-down vote on whatever deal the administration eventually reaches. The TPP has the backing of corporate interest groups, but liberals have balked over its potential to undermine environmental, public health and labor standards, as well as ship U.S. jobs overseas. The White House has yet to find a House Democratic cosponsor for it.
During a 2007 campaign speech in Spartanburg, South Carolina, then-Senator Obama promised he would fight for collective bargaining rights if he was elected president.
“And understand this: If American workers are being denied their right to organize and collectively bargain when I’m in the White House, I’ll put on a comfortable pair of shoes myself. I’ll walk on that picket line with you as president of the United States.”
Two years ago, President Obama passed up an opportunity to make good on that promise when Wisconsin workers lost their collective bargaining rights. Some people suggested mailing pairs of comfortable shoes to the White House to help the President out.
Once again, our President needs those shoes. He says he is concerned that Americans have gone too long without a minimum wage increase, yet he won’t sign an executive order to help out low-wage federal contract employees.
From Think Progress:
Unlike millions of other low-wage employees, the ones fulfilling federal service contracts can get a raise without an act of Congress. The workers, backed by a group of about 17 House progressives, want President Obama to exercise his executive authority to improve their pay and get taxpayers out of the business of paying poverty wages. The administration has kept quiet on the topic for months as the congressional progressives who favor the move have gotten louder and begun criticizing the president’s inaction, and both workers and lawmakers hope Obama’s upcoming State of the Union address will include an announcement about raising federal contract worker wages with the stroke of a pen.
The eight-month federal worker campaign has played out in the shadow of much larger coast-to-coast strikes by fast food and Walmart workers, who likely hope their activism has emboldened a president who once famously pledged to walk picket lines alongside workers.
In a letter released Tuesday through the Economic Policy Institute, a left-leaning think tank, 75 economists, including seven Nobel Laureates, argue that the government should hike the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour by 2016 and then peg future increases to inflation. A proposal from Senate Democrats, backed by President Obama, to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour is currently stalled in Congress.
…During the initial phase-in period of a $10.10 minimum wage, the U.S. economy would grow by $22 billion, according to a December analysis from EPI. The economic growth would result in the creation of 85,000 new jobs, the analysis concluded.
If Republicans refuse to raise the federal minimum wage, let’s call it what it is: economic sabotage.
According to new polling by the Center for American Progress:
Nearly two in three Americans (64 percent) agree that “Most people who live in poverty are poor because their jobs don’t pay enough, they lack good health care and education, and things cost too much for them to save and get ahead.” By contrast, only 25 percent of Americans agree with a competing idea that “Most people who live in poverty are poor because they make bad decisions or act irresponsibly in their own lives.” Even white conservatives and libertarians prefer the structural explanation for poverty over the personal by a significant margin, 63 to 29 percent.
These results are not a surprise if you belong to the reality-based community. Economic conditions in this country are the worst since the Great Depression. Six years after the start of Bush’s Great Recession, there has been hardly any recovery at all for most Americans. According to research by Emmanuel Saez, an economics professor at the University of California at Berkeley, between 2009 and 2011 the top 1 Percent became 11.2 percent richer while the bottom 99 Percent got 0.4 percent poorer.
Long-term unemployment benefits expired for 1.3 million Americans on December 28. They were just a fraction of the 4.1 million people whom the Labor Department counted as unemployed for more than 26 weeks. Beyond the official long-term unemployed, more than 760,000 others are counted by the Labor Department as “discouraged,” meaning they have stopped looking for work (some economists think that the number may be higher).
It remains to be seen whether our broken political system can do much to fix our broken economy. Congress hasn’t even been able to agree on an extension of Emergency Unemployment Compensation, something that used to be routine.
One reason for the big drop in unemployment in December was that many, many people dropped out of the labor force — 347,000, to be exact. They stopped looking for work, which made them no longer “unemployed” in the eyes of the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Right-wing media have spent the last few years baselessly dismissing the decades-long push to alleviate poverty as not worth the fight, despite evidence showing that government efforts to reduce poverty have been successful.
UPDATE: Robert Reich: Today’s Jobs Report and the Scourge of Inequality
Not meaning to be heavy, but people are going to be in the streets without food, while the childrens, childrens, children of the wealthy won’t have any idea how to spend the money.
Tomorrow, 1.3 million Americans will be immediately cut off from long-term unemployment insurance payments. According to the White House Council on Economic Advisers, an additional 3.6 million people will lose their benefits by the end of 2014. The expiration of benefits represents a critical blow to a program that lifted 1.7 million out of poverty in 2012.
Why? Republicans in Congress. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) expressed the GOP position when he said that long-term unemployment benefits encourage unemployment. Of course, when there are three applicants for every job, the opposite is true.