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A few well-written words can convey a wealth of information, particularly when there is no lag time between when they are written and when they are read. The IPS blog gives you an opportunity to hear directly from IPS scholars and staff on ideas large and small and for us to hear back from you.

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Entries tagged "Congress"

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Republicans Find the Culprit

June 18, 2011 ·

Oh, so that's who the Republicans are complaining about, Mitt Romney! You know — the unemployed guy just goofin off, schleppin' around the mansion, flying around on his private jet, stubbornly pursuing only one job, when he's better suited to so many less-desirable jobs. That guy.

That's the lazy, too-good-for-your-minimum-wage-job unemployed guy the Republicans refer when trying to cut off unemployment benefits. I wondered who that guy was.

Turns out he showed up at an event for unemployed workers down at Buddy Brew Coffee in Tampa Florida, according to New York Times reporter Jeff Zeleny. A bunch of folks were telling their hard-knock stories about trying to survive without a job. Tom Yarrenton, for one, told Romney his story of being unemployed. At age 55, after 31 years as an auditor in the manufacturing industry, Yarrenton lost his job a few months ago. "I should tell my story," Romney told Mr Yarrenton and the other unemployed folks in solidarity. "I am also unemployed." Must've made them feel better.

Mitt Romney 
Mitt Romney thinks his last five years of permanent campaigning are the same as being unemployed. Creative Commons photo by Dave Delay 

I wonder if he should reassure the folks whose stories the National Employment Law Project is collecting. It might help R.P., a father of three, from Pembroke, New Hampshire, who recently lost his job as an IT technician, to know he's in the same boat as multimillionaire Mitt Romney. "I have sent my resume to over 250 companies since June 2010 and have had 6 interviews all of which told me I was either overqualified or underqualified," R.P. reports. "At this point I have started applying at fast food chains and janitorial companies but still cannot get hired. I broke down crying during an interview yesterday because I cannot stop thinking about what will happen if I can't find a job that at least pays me $250 weekly."

It couldn't be R.P. and Tom Yarrenton that Republicans are trying to throw under the bus by yanking unemployment benefits, could it? And the other almost 14 million unemployed Americans struggling to find jobs that aren't there? A congressional panel recently approved a GOP bill along party-lines that would allow states to take $31 billion of federal money that benefits the long-term unemployed and use it instead to pay down state debt. I couldn't figure out why they would want to do this. I heard the complaints about the lazy, good-for-nuthins sucking off the guvmint's teat instead of looking for work. But I didn't actually know of someone like that until the other day when the former Massachusetts governor and GOP presidential candidate spoke out in Tampa. The only problem is that Mitt Romney doesn't collect unemployment insurance. His government subsidy comes in the form of the Bush tax cuts for multi-millionaires.

Now that that the Republicans have found their culprit, I am sure they will switch tacks and extend unemployment benefits for the millions of suffering out-of-work Americans and let the tax cuts for the lazy goofin' off unemployed rich guys expire.

Who's Buyin' Ryan? Only the Rich Can Afford To...

April 5, 2011 ·

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) is waging radical class warfare and ideological privatization schemes and selling it as a debt reduction plan.

As the Center for Economic and Policy Research's Dean Baker reminds us, the U.S. economic policies of the last three decades, by favoring corporations and the wealthy over average Americans, have achieved the world's most breathtaking upward redistribution of wealth. America's richest 1 percent are getting about $1.5 trillion richer each year. Studies also show that the top 5 percent in this country hold almost 64 percent of our wealth while and the bottom 80 percent of scrape by on just 12.8 percent of the pie.

Yet under the guise of debt reduction, the chairman of the House Budget Committee's budget proposal would take from the already poor, give to the already rich and attempt to achieve debt reduction not by cutting real costs, but by privatizing entitlement programs and shifting costs from the wealthy and corporations to struggling states, seniors, disabled, sick and low-income Americans. And the revenue-raising necessary for serious debt reduction is glaringly absent, with proposals instead to actually decrease tax-revenue from those most able to pay.

Although the details won't be released until later today, there's a fair amount that we already know: Its foundation is his 2010 "Roadmap for America's Future" and the similar healthcare recommendations of the Rivlin-Domenici Bipartisan Policy Center Task force. This reverse-Robin Hood scheme essentially privatizes Social Security and Medicare, converting Medicaid from a guaranteed benefits program to a limited block grant program. At the same time, it would repeal estate and corporate taxes, slashing the income taxes the wealthiest Americans pay and instituting a regressive national sales tax that would most likely increase tax obligations for poor, working-class, and middle-class Americans.

Even if his blueprint doesn't attack Social Security too, it won't be safe for long. Privatizing Social Security is another essential piece of this dangerous and unfair GOP agenda.

Instead of further shrinking the middle class and endangering the health and economic well-being of those of us not fortunate enough to be among the nation's wealthiest 2 percent, a responsible budget would look to ease long-term debt in some of the following ways:

First, fix our broken health care system. Under Ryan's health care schemes, beneficiaries would increasingly bear the burden of soaring costs with no guarantee of receiving the remedies prescribed by their doctors. A better and fairer approach would expand the single-payer Medicare system nation-wide, achieving cost-savings, implementing real cost control and retaining guaranteed healthcare for all Americans. Baker also suggests that if Ryan is such a fan of vouchers, how about a voucher system that achieves some of effective cost-saving and health-promoting results: give Medicare beneficiaries the option of to buy into the more efficient health care systems in Canada and Europe.

Second, my Institute for Policy Studies colleague Chuck Collins articulates our argument for four revenue-raisers that would bring in a whopping $400 billion each year: 1) impose a small tax on speculative financial transactions that do little to strengthen the real economy 2) reduce corporate tax dodging by closing overseas tax havens and requiring companies to pay U.S. taxes on the profits they actually earn in this country 3) establish higher tax brackets for households with annual incomes of $1 million or more, and 4) Institute a progressive estate tax on fortunes over $5 million, with higher rates on billionaire estates.

Finally, cut the bloated military budget. Obama's bipartisan Debt Commission called for cutting the Pentagon's spending by at least $100 billion over the next decade. We need to cut more than that but we shouldn't accept less.

The GOP is right about one thing: We have to be serious about debt reduction. Ryan's dangerous and seriously flawed scheme, however, is nothing more than an ideological ploy to shrink government programs that help poor and middle-class Americans while rewarding the already wealthy.

Who Gives A Rat's Behind that Progressive Lawmakers WON?

November 8, 2010 ·

I recently published the blog post Buck Up Progressives--We WON! Many readers appreciated the silver lining to an otherwise demoralizing mid-term election outcome. Others thought the resilience of Congressional Progressive Caucus lawmakers meaningless at best, just the same or worse than corporate-owned, pro-wealthy Republicans at worst.

So, does it matter that there are close to 80 self-proclaimed House progressives who maintained their seats in the wake of an unprecedented flood of secret money, thanks to the Supreme Court's "Citizen's United" ruling?

It certainly does.

An overwhelming majority of Congressional Progressive Caucus incumbents won after governing with integrity in most instances. They weren't always successful. They failed in their bid for Single Payer, then in their stand for a "Robust Public Option" in the health reform bill. They couldn't defund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The lack of movement on truly progressive steps to reverse climate change, to get a good jobs bill out of Congress, scrap Don't Ask, Don't Tell, and securing full enfranchisement for citizens living in the District of Columbia were deeply disappointing.

Yet, thanks in large part to progressive grassroots movements, advocates and experts, Congressional Progressive Caucus lawmakers successfully increased food stamp benefits for our growing numbers of hungry families. They helped keep 3.3 million people out of poverty by extending Unemployment Insurance to our alarming number of unemployed workers. They, at least temporarily, helped create 250,000 state jobs for low-income TANF (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families) recipients in the Great Recession's wake.

They played a crucial role in getting Congress to rein in predatory lenders, regulate Wall Street, pass credit card consumer protection, protect worker rights, increase the minimum wage, subsidize health insurance for Americans who lost their jobs, boost the Earned Income Tax Credit to lift vulnerable families out of poverty, and more.

In other words, they did more than any other congressional block to introduce and pass progressive legislation that made significant differences in the lives of poor people and others who are struggling in this country. They have laid the groundwork for more that can be done in the lame duck session, including passing a meaningful jobs bill, extending much-needed Unemployment Insurance, passing a good child nutrition bill and extending the TANF Emergency Contingency Fund to keep jobs for low-income workers.

Because progressive Democrats prevailed in the midterm elections as the Blue Dog delegation's ranks were halved, we will likely have Nancy Pelosi as Minority Leader instead of conservative Steny Hoyer. Because we have so many progressives in Congress, we'll have champions for our causes and venues for our ideas.

There's no question that our possibilities of advancing any more of a progressive agenda in Congress are vastly diminished if not eliminated by key progressive losses, and that future congressional elections are jeopardized by sweeping GOP victories in many state legislatures. Indeed, we'll probably see some of the successes we've had rolled back. But keeping the Congressional Progressive Caucus intact marks a significant win for progressives and for poor people, immigrants, people of color, young people, senior citizens, single mothers, and the unemployed. It's the least we need.

We would be much worse off without them.

America's Hungry Children Need Food

October 6, 2010 ·

Our nation’s safety net program to help low income families and children afford enough food, SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, is slated for a $14.1 billion decrease in funding.  Unless Congress acts to reverse this, those receiving SNAP aid will see a substantial reduction in their monthly benefits, possibly beginning as early as 2013.  The decrease in monthly aid would mark an unprecedented event in the program’s history. 

Congress is raiding the SNAP program to pay for other domestic programs such as Medicaid and teacher salaries.  Although a large deficit can be a problem in the long run, studies show that short-term deficit spending in time of recession is beneficial to the economy. Further, SNAP is not only a proven anti-poverty program but also has the stimulative effect on the economy of producing $1.73 in economic activity for each dollar spent on the program. 

New information, which was released from the census bureau on September 28th, found that 20 percent of American children live in poverty.  The census report also found that in Mississippi alone 31 percent of children were living in poverty.  Further troubling is the fact that, in as many as 21 states nationwide childhood poverty was at or above the 20 percent mark.  Since SNAP has proven an effective anti-hunger program, it should be supported and expanded in desperate times, not curtailed.

If you rob Peter to pay Paul, the already hungry Peter will starve.  If we allow this kind of deficit hysteria to hijack our children’s well being, we will be a nation morally starved as well.  

One Year After the Recovery Act...

October 1, 2010 ·

With the Democrats facing a tough mid-term battle, the Obama Administration is doing their best to highlight the legislative achievements that the Dems have won over the past two years.

Today, Vice President Biden put outs a report that illustrates the progress that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (aka ARRA, Recovery Act and the stimulus package/biIl) has made over this past year.

Since there is still so much confusion around the effectiveness of the Recovery Act, I decided to use this space to summarize some of the key improvements and impacts of the stimulus bill, with the help of The Washington Post, and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP):

  • Vice President Biden's report has noted that the Administration had spent 70% of the act's original $787 billion, it has been diligent in getting the funding into the hands of those who are creating jobs.

  • Even with efficient spending, stimulus grants and contracts have been relatively free of the fraud charges that routinely plague governement programs. Only two percent of awards under the program have received complaints.

  • Although the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is a crude measure of the economic wellbeing of people, it is still one of the most popular wealth indicators used all over the world (Here is some more info). According to CBPP, our GDP would have been lower without the Recovery Act:

ARRA vs no-ARRA: GDP

  • According to the Congressional Budget Office and the Council of Economic Advisors, ARRA has created/saved approximately 2 million jobs over this past year.

  • CBPP has also calculated that without the Recovery Act, the unemployment rate would be much higher than the 9.6% we are seeing right now:

ARRA vs no-ARRA: Unemployment Rate

Furthermore, and this is usually the provision that has been ignored, the Recovery Act has provided funding for the TANF Emergency Fund, which is a program that has helped 37 states provide 250,000 subsidized jobs for unemployed parents and youth to weather the economic recession. Unfortunately, with a Senate unwilling to reauthorize the program, the funding ended yesterday (September 30) and many of these jobs will be terminated due to this ill-informed inaction.

It is true, the Recovery Act did not "solve" the economic crisis, and bring our economy back to pre-crisis levels. However, without it, our economic situation would be a lot worse than it is now. If anything, these highlights illustrate that more stimulus would probably lead to a more robust economic recovery.

People should also keep in mind that ARRA was passed last year without much Republican support in the Senate, and without any Republican support in the House.

So should we really be handing the keys of Congress back to the GOP, who have been strongly opposing the stimulus since the very beginning?

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