Bad news on the economy. It added only 88,000 jobs in March – the slowest pace of job growth in nine months.
While the jobless rate fell to 7.6 percent, much of the drop was due to the labor force shrinking by almost a half million people. If you’re not looking for work, you’re not counted as unemployed.
That means the percentage of working-age Americans either with a job or looking for one dropped to 63.3 percent — its lowest level since 1979.
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The direction isn’t encouraging. The pace of job growth this year is slower than its pace last year. ( Continue… )
The White House and prominent Democrats are talking about reducing future Social Security payments by using a formula for adjusting for inflation that’s stingier than the current one. It’s called the “Chained CPI.” I did this video so you can understand it — and understand why it’s so wrongheaded.
Even Social Security’s current inflation adjustment understates the true impact of inflation on the elderly. That’s because they spend 20 to 40 percent of their incomes on health care, and health-care costs have been rising faster than inflation. So why adopt a new inflation adjustment that’s even stingier than the current one?
Social Security benefits are already meager for most recipients. The median income of Americans over 65 is less than $20,000 a year. Nearly 70 percent of them depend on Social Security for more than half of this. The average Social Security benefit is less than $15,000 a year.
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Besides, Social Security isn’t in serious trouble. The Social Security trust fund is flush for at least two decades. If we want to ensure it’s there beyond that, there’s an easy fix — just lift the ceiling on income subject to Social Security taxes, which is now $113,700.
Why are Democrats even suggesting the inflation adjustment be reduced? Republicans aren’t asking for it. Not even Paul Ryan’s draconian budget includes it.
Democrats invented Social Security and have been protecting it for almos 80 years.They shouldn’t be leading the charge against it.
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Their agreement on is very preliminary and hasn’t yet even been blessed by the so-called Gang of Eight Senators working on immigration reform, but the mere fact that AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and Chamber of Commerce President Thomas J. Donohue agreed on anything is remarkable.
The question is whether it’s a good deal for American workers. It is, and I’ll explain why in a moment.
Under the agreement (arrived at last weekend) a limited number of temporary visas would be issued to foreign workers in low-skilled occupations, who could thereafter petition to become American citizens.
The agreement is an important step toward a comprehensive immigration reform package to be introduced in the Senate later this month. Disagreement over allowing in low-skilled workers helped derail immigration reform in 2007. ( Continue… )
Who says American politics is gridlocked? A tidal wave of politicians from both sides of the aisle who just a few years ago opposed same-sex marriage are now coming around to support it. Even if the Supreme Court were decide to do nothing about California’s Proposition 8 or DOMA, it would seem only matter of time before both were repealed.
A significant number of elected officials who had been against allowing undocumented immigrants to become American citizens is now talking about “charting a path” for them; a bipartisan group of senators is expected to present a draft bill April 8.
Even a few who were staunch gun advocates are now sounding more reasonable about background checks.
It’s nice to think logic and reason are finally catching up with our elected representatives, but the real explanation for these changes of heart is more prosaic: public opinion. ( Continue… )
Prominent Democrats — including the President and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi — are openly suggesting that Medicare be means-tested and Social Security payments be reduced by applying a lower adjustment for inflation.
This is even before they’ve started budget negotiations with Republicans — who still refuse to raise taxes on the rich, close tax loopholes the rich depend on (such as hedge-fund and private-equity managers’ “carried interest”), increase capital gains taxes on the wealthy, cap their tax deductions, or tax financial transactions.
It’s not the first time Democrats have led with a compromise, but these particular pre-concessions are especially unwise.
For over thirty years Republicans have pitted the middle class against the poor, preying on the frustrations and racial biases of average working people who can’t get ahead no matter how hard they try. In the Republican narrative, government takes from the hard-working middle and gives to the undeserving and dependent needy. ( Continue… )
“Our biggest problems over the next ten years are not deficits,” the President told House Republicans Wednesday, according to those who attended the meeting.
The President needs to deliver the same message to the public, loudly and clearly. The biggest problems we face are unemployment, stagnant wages, slow growth, and widening inequality — not deficits. The major goal must be to get jobs and wages back, not balance the budget.
Paul Ryan’s budget plan — essentially, the House Republican plan — is designed to lure the White House and Democrats, and the American public, into a debate over how to balance the federal budget in ten years, not over whether it’s worth doing.
“This is an invitation,” Ryan explained when he unveiled the plan Tuesday. “Show us how to balance the budget. If you don’t like the way we’re proposing to balance our budget, how do you propose to balance the budget?” ( Continue… )
Republicans lost the election but they still shape what’s debated in Washington — the federal budget deficit and so-called “fiscal responsibility.”
The White House’s and the Democrat’s continuing failure to reshape that debate has lead directly and logically to Paul Ryan’s budget plan this week, which is a more regressive version of the same plan American voters resoundingly rejected last November.
Sadly, the President is playing into the GOP’s hands with a new round of negotiations over a “grand bargain.”
Despite February’s encouraging job numbers, the major challenge is still jobs, wages, growth, and widening inequality — not deficit reduction and fiscal responsibility. ( Continue… )
Today the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose above 14,270 – completely erasing its 54 percent loss between 2007 and 2009.
The stock market is basically back to where it was in 2000, while corporate earnings have doubled since then.
Yet the real median wage is now 8 percent below what it was in 2000, and unemployment remains sky-high.
Why is the stock market doing so well, while most Americans are doing so poorly? Four reasons: ( Continue… )
What should the President do now?
Push to repeal the sequester (a reconciliation bill in the Senate would allow repeal with 51 votes, thereby putting pressure on House Republicans), and replace it with a “Build America’s Future” Act that would close tax loopholes used by the wealthy, end corporate welfare, impose a small (1/10 of 1%) tax on financial transactions, and reduce the size of the military.
Half the revenues would be used for deficit reduction, the other half for investments in our future through education (from early-childhood through affordable higher ed), infrastructure, and basic R&D.
Also included in that bill — in order to make sure our future isn’t jeopardized by another meltdown of Wall Street — would be a resurrection of Glass-Steagall and a limit on the size of the biggest banks. ( Continue… )
With the sequester now beginning, I find myself thinking about Robert F. Kennedy — and 46 years ago when I was an intern in his Senate office.
But RFK was upbeat. He was also busy and intense — drafting legislation, lining up votes, speaking to the poor, inspiring the young. I was awed by his energy and optimism, and his overriding passion for social justice and the public good. (Within a few months he’d declare his intention to run for president. Within a year he’d be dead.)
The nation is once again polarized, but I don’t hear our politicians talking about social justice or the public good. They’re talking instead about the budget deficit and sequestration.
At bottom, though, the issue is still social justice. ( Continue… )