By Doug Porter
We’ll start with the number zero. That’s how many Republican members of both houses of Congress showed up for a Joint Economic Committee hearing on long term unemployment. And the Democrats didn’t do much better.
From the National Journal:
When a hearing to explore how to get the long-term unemployed back to work kicked off on Wednesday morning, only one lawmaker was in attendance. That was Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who was holding the hearing in her role as the vice chair of the Joint Economic Committee. The Joint Economic Commitee is one of a handful of committees whose members come from both parties and both houses of Congress. Klobuchar was eventually joined by three colleagues (in order of their appearance): Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy, Maryland Rep. John Delaney and Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings. All four are Democrats.
The long-term unemployed have it incredibly rough: their ranks have swelled in recent years, accounting for a larger share of the unemployed; the problem is compounded by eroding skills; and the psychological effects of unemployment can take a toll on them and their families. In a 2010 Pew survey, close to half of the people out of work six or months said being unemployed for so long had strained family relations, and more than 40 percent said they’d lost contact with close friends. Just being unemployed for a long period makes individuals less employable. It’s what Kevin Hassett, a former economic advisor to Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney, called a “national emergency” at Wednesday’s hearing.
Long term unemployment represents a huge economic, social and political challenge. In my opinion, it’s ticking time bomb, ripe for developing into a rich recruitment source for extremists and a rich environment for fomenting ‘lone wolves’ bent on acts of mayhem. The sense of humiliation by forces outside one’s control is a powerful and very negative motivator.
From Think Progress:
There are currently 4.7 million American workers who have been unemployed for at least six months, and the challenges they face are immense. Not only do they long-term unemployed face discriminatory hiring policies that make it nearly impossible for them to find work, they are also losing federal unemployment insurance thanks to state-level cuts and sequestration, which slashed 10 percent from federal benefits.
Unfortunately, even if they had attended, it’s unlikely members of Congress would have gotten the complete picture of unemployment they needed. All four of the panelists invited to speak were white men, the least likely to be affected by the long-term unemployment crisis. A report that accompanied the hearing, in fact, noted that even as long-term unemployment rates have fallen for blacks and Latinos, “progress has been slower than for other racial and ethnic groups.
There were suggestions for policy changes put forwards at these hearings, noted in today’s Wonkblog at the Washington Post. But they all involve some form of government intervention and cash money at a time when the now-disproved mantra of austerity continues to reign supreme in the nation’s capital.
Some companies won’t even look at the resumes of the long-term unemployed, and many of these stigmatized workers are simply dropping out of the labor force — possibly for good. Paul Krugman worries that “we are indeed creating a permanent class of jobless Americans.”
I guess all those folks are just out of luck. At least they won’t have much trouble buying guns when things get really desperate. Depressing stuff, indeed.
CYA = Clear Your Airports
As the sequester cuts began rippling across the economy, our Congresscritters developed a momentary backbone, bravely standing up in the US Senate to pass a measure by unanimous consent to allow the Federal Air Administration the financial flexibility to end flight controller furloughs.
The House of Representatives is expected to affirm this act of heroism today, making sure than none of the flying public is inconvenienced even as sequester cuts curtail cancer treatments and kick poor kids out of Head Start.
Rachel Maddow at MSNBC said it well:
…the sequester is a painfully stupid policy that hurts the country on purpose. It was designed to cause deliberate pain for no good reason. I don’t much care which issue touches a nerve with lawmakers — though I wish Head Start lotteries offended them as much as a few hours on a tarmac — so much as I care that Congress at least consider ending this madness before it does more harm to more people.
In the meantime, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) offered a sensible alternative on Monday, giving Congress a chance to turn sequestration off for five months, and the White House endorsed the approach yesterday.
Congressional Republicans said yesterday they are not open to the possibility.
Issa’s Failed Sperm Car Loan Request
Congressman Darrell Issa took the lead on Tuesday during a hearing of the House Oversight Committee, aggressively questioning executives of Fisker Automotive about a failed loan from the Energy Department. From Think Progress:
The attacks were reminiscent of those made in hearings on Solyndra and were more of a reflection of the committee’s hyperpartisan agenda than any real oversight duty. It also suggested some hypocrisy as GOP lawmakers attacked the Energy Department for “picking winners and losers” in a loan program that they themselves had sought to exploit for their own “winners.”
Fisker received the $529 million loan through the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Loan Program (ATVM), which began under President Bush. In fact in 2008, the Bush Administration urged Fisker to apply for a loan. The company raised more than $1 billion in outside financing. Fisker had received $192 million of the federal loan when the Department of Energy suspended the loan in June 2011. Since then, the government seized $21 million back from Fisker as a partial loan repayment. For context, the larger Energy Department clean energy loan program has leveraged more than $55 billion in total economic investment in 33 projects.
Of course the Bush administration’s role in this matter was of no importance to Issa and his posse. This is about ‘attack Obama’, and ‘please, don’t notice our hypocrisy’. But lets look a little deeper into the subject. Again, with a cameo from now-retired Brian Bilbray, from Think Progress:
Issa himself acknowledged one thing during the hearing that may have slipped by most observers: He tried, and failed, to get a loan guarantee for a company called Aptera Motors. Based in Issa’s district, Aptera had designed a three-wheeled electric car. The company failed and has since been purchased by a Chinese-American partnership, but there may have been more fundamental issues with the company’s business plan as Wired reported in 2011:
Southern California electric vehicle startup Aptera Motors is out of time, out of money and out of luck. It announced today that it is shutting its doors, liquidating its assets and laying off its staff…. The truth is, Aptera always faced long odds and has been in trouble for at least two years. The audience for a sperm-shaped, three-wheeled, electric two-seater was never anything but small.
Design issues aside, when Issa was flacking it, Aptera had other concerns. Initially, three-wheeled cars were ineligible for DoE loans. But Rep. Issa and Rep. Brian Bilbray got the law changed so that the car would be eligible. The company also received funding from one of Issa’s campaign donors, and the firm’s CFO paid a $40,000 fine to the SEC for an accounting fraud charge from her time working at Delphi. All of this did not stop Issa from sending a letter to Energy Secretary Chu requesting a loan (reported to be $150 million) for the company through the ATVM loan program.
It’s Not All Bad Up on the Hill
Sometimes it is good to celebrate the failures up on Capital Hill: from US News we learned yesterday that CISPA is all but dead, again.
The controversial cybersecurity bill known as the Cyber Information Sharing and Protection Act, which passed the House of Representatives last week, will almost certainly be shelved by the Senate, according to a representative of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.
The bill would have allowed the federal government to share classified “cyber threat” information with companies, but it also provided provisions that would have allowed companies to share information about specific users with the government. Privacy advocates also worried that the National Security Administration would have gotten involved
Fundies of a Feather…
Barney Frank was singled out in the latest edition of Al Qaeda Inspire magazine as an example of the decadence of the United States because he dared to get married to another man. From Buzzfeed:
Former Congressman Barney Frank doesn’t care that al-Qaeda attacked him in the latest issue of their Inspire magazine, which al-Qaeda publishes intermittently to inspire terrorist attacks in Western nations.
In fact, Frank said he finds it “ironic,” comparing al-Qaeda’s opposition to his marriage to a man to opposition he said he received from the American right wing.
“I thought there was an irony there,” Frank told BuzzFeed when reached by phone Wednesday night. “It sounded like what the tea party said when I got married.”
Local Protest on Immigration Policy
Although Congress is slated to take up bills that will fundamentally reform immigration policy over the next few weeks, the Obama administration’s aggressive deportation policies are continuing. Some employers are even taking advantage of the get tough posture to suppress efforts by organized labor to gain living wages for employees in fields traditionally dominated by immigrant workers.
The SEIU’s United Service Workers West has been a leader in fighting against abusive use of I-9 audits by employers. Now, the Department of Homeland Security I-9 auditing process is threatening the jobs of more than 550 janitors in San Diego, many of whom would likely be eligible for a pathway to citizenship but now are at risk of detention and deportation in addition to losing their ability to work and support their families.
Today they’re leading immigrant families, workers and supporters to march on the San Diego Federal Building calling a suspension of I-9 employment terminations until Congress considers pending comprehensive immigration reform legislation. The protest will start at noon at Symphony Towers, 750 B Street and march to the San Diego Federal Building at 880 Front Street.
“A strong majority of Americans agree we need comprehensive immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship. This is a clear example that our immigration system is broken and why Congress is responding to the demands of voters to fix it,” says Mike Garcia, President of SEIU USWW. “The Obama Administration should not be putting families on the road to deportation until Congress has the chance to build a pathway to citizenship.”
It’s Kumbaya Time for Carl & Bonnie
It’s lovey-dovey now between Carl DeMaio and Bonnie Dumanis, who were often at odds during last year’s Mayoral primary. The DeMaio For Mayor website (yes, it’s still active) is urging supporters to join Carl DeMaio for a breakfast reception on Tuesday, April 30th in support of Bonnie Dumanis’ re-election campaign for San Diego County District Attorney.
A suggested $250 minimum contribution will get you in the door at the downtown Athen’s Market Taverna starting at 8am. There was no indication on the invite as to whether City employees would be prohibited from attending.
On This Day: 1921 – Weather broadcasts were heard for the first time on radio in St. Louis, MO. (They were probably wrong) 1977 – Legendary Disco nightclub Studio 54 opened in New York. 1986 – The world’s worst nuclear disaster to date occurred at Chernobyl, in Kiev. Thirty-one people died in the incident and thousands more were exposed to radioactive material.
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