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House Republicans have revived their efforts to slash unemployment insurance (UI) benefits and dismantle the foundation of UI as an essential lifeline for working Americans who suffer involuntary job loss.  In typically cynical fashion, they are pursuing these plans as part of the effort in Congress to renew the federal extensions of unemployment insurance through 2012 -- and under the guise of "reform."

As shameful as their efforts are, we can still have some fun fighting back.  Please share your ideas for a caption for the cartoon in the comments!

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underattack_squareNot content with having engineered the legislation that made Michigan the first state in the nation to cut unemployment insurance benefit weeks from 26 down to 20 for future jobless workers, the Michigan Chamber of Commerce is now pushing new legislation that would drastically reduce benefit amounts and severely restrict benefit eligibility for many unemployed Michiganders.

Two bills pending before Michigan’s House of Representatives -- which could see floor action as early as today -- would further dismantle the state’s unemployment insurance (UI) program and impact thousands of Michigan's unemployed workers struggling to make ends meet while they look for work.

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Lost sometimes in the fog of ignorance and petty insults – you know, that workers receiving unemployment insurance are like lazy addicts, or that they’re “stealing from their neighbors” and that the benefit funds should be used instead to give more tax breaks to corporations – is the crucial role that unemployment insurance plays in fighting poverty.

A recent study from the Congressional Research Service shows that unemployment insurance (UI) has had a powerful antipoverty effect in the U.S., both during periods of economic expansion and periods marked by recession.

Persons Lifted Above Poverty by UI

The study shows that UI has an even more significant antipoverty effect both during and in the wake of recessions, and that according to the most recently available statistics – for 2009 – UI benefits have had their biggest impact keeping Americans out of poverty during the most recent recession.  Indeed, the data shows that when benefits, availability and duration of eligibility are maintained at expanded levels, the number of Americans kept from falling into poverty rises dramatically.  In 2009, an estimated 3.3 million people were saved from poverty by UI – including nearly 1 million children.

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Fri Mar 18, 2011 at 01:12 PM PDT

Desperation Row

by catchlightning

cross-posted from Unemployedworkers.org where I am online campaign & blog coordinator

Desp_Row2Far too many American workers, stricken by the plague of long-term unemployment, find themselves at a place that now exists just off of 'Main Streets' in big cities, small towns and rural communities across the country.  It's a frightening place of great distress, where help is sorely needed -- call it 'Desperation Row'.

Every day we receive numerous stories submitted by workers through this website's 'Raise Your Voice' page.  On a single day earlier this month we received dozens of such stories, several of which we'll excerpt here.  Taken together, they offer a stark picture of lives in the balance, as the painfully slow recovery fails to reach those most in need and millions of jobless workers face the exhaustion of unemployment insurance benefits.

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Mon Nov 01, 2010 at 01:20 PM PDT

Damn the Torpedoers

by catchlightning

cross-posted from Working America's 'Main Street' blog where I am a featured guest blogger

Back last Spring it became increasingly apparent that one intention of the Republican-led obstruction of any and all measures designed to boost the economy and help working people was to thwart the recovery -- and blame President Obama and Congressional Democrats.

Well, they've certainly thrown sand in the gears of any nascent recovery -- one reason we're still stuck with debilitating unemployment, a massive foreclosure debacle and a private sector that remains in a virtual hiring gridlock.

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Mon Aug 30, 2010 at 08:12 AM PDT

Where's OUR New Deal?

by catchlightning

If that's the question you've been asking yourself, in one form or another, over the course of the past year or two, believe me you are not alone.  Whenever the subject comes up people seem to respond with that instant sense of recognition and a one word accompaniment: "Right?"

By now it's clear that a sizable consensus of all but the most wackadoodle economists think that the stimulus measures in the original Recovery Act were far too small.  As the Congressional Budget Office continues to report, those stimulus measures have had a positive impact on the economy.  And without them, things would have been far, far worse.  But for all of the benefits of the Recovery Act -- extended unemployment insurance, COBRA health subsidies, highway and rail projects, TANF low-income-family employment programs, the largest tax cut for the middle-class in history, Medicare assistance for states and education aid for the nation's schools -- it just wasn't big and bold enough to create the millions of new jobs needed to restore full employment.

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cross-posted from Working America's Main Street blog where I am a featured guest blogger

Sam Seder has a great new video now featured on StrengthenSocialSecurity.org on what working people think about the attempts to weaken Social Security while giving tax breaks to the rich.

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cross-posted from Working America's Main Street blog where I am a featured guest blogger

Mark Zandi goes all Newt Gingrichy in an Op-Ed piece in the Sunday New York Times on the issue of what to do about the scheduled expiration of the Bush-era tax cuts.

In light of the fact that Zandi, the chief economist at Moody's Analytics, has produced a good deal of work that has been very supportive of the economic benefits of fiscal stimulus, including expanded unemployment insurance, it's a curious piece of writing based on an even more curious perspective.

(In what follows, I steal a page, so to speak, from the FJM-style now kept alive by Ed at the blog ginandtacos)

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cross-posted from Working America's Main Street blog where I am a featured guest blogger

The July jobs report released today showed a virtually stagnant private sector adding only 71,000 jobs last month, less than the 100,000-plus needed to simply keep up with historical additions to the labor force from population growth.  According to the Labor Department, government job losses totaled 202,000 in July, including the loss of 143,000 federal Census workers and another 48,000 among state and local workers, with 30,000 jobs lost in education.  Total non-farm payroll employment declined by 131,000 in July.

The official unemployment rate remained unchanged at 9.5 percent, but would have risen were it not for a decline of 181,000 in the size of the labor force.  The number of people not counted in the labor force increased by 381,000 in July alone.  That number has increased by 2.8 million since July 2009.

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When the July jobs report is released this Friday and its results are, as expected, less than stellar, you will no doubt soon be assaulted by stories like this from the business mouthpieces and Wall Street pundits.

Confronted with incredible uncertainty about the future business climate brought about by massive regulatory and tax changes, they are sitting on cash instead of investing in capital equipment and, especially, hiring new workers.

Ah, yes, it's that "incredible uncertainty" -- not the very real and very depressed economy itself -- that's the cause of weak private sector investment and hiring.

The business mouthpieces will surely be promulgating the "uncertainty" smokescreen, just as their confidence men pursue the sado-economic Republican austerity drive that itself is further weakening the already weak economy.

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cross-posted from Working America's Main Street blog where I am a featured guest blogger

Half a million local public workers across the country could lose their jobs without legislation to support city and county services, a report issued (pdf) by groups of local officials said this week.

New survey research announced today shows that local governments are now facing a fiscal crisis that will force job losses approaching 500,000 and significant cuts in much needed public services. Representatives from the National League of Cities (NLC), United States Conference of Mayors (USCM) and the National Association of Counties (NACo) jointly released the survey results at a press conference on Capitol Hill earlier today and were joined by several members of Congress offering their support to cities and counties during these difficult economic times.

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Alan S. Blinder, a leading economist and former Federal Reserve Board vice chairman, wants to end the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy and use the huge budget savings to help fund public programs to create jobs, strengthen the safety net and stimulate the economy.

On a conference call with reporters Wednesday, Blinder said the economy is currently weak enough to require additional fiscal and monetary stimulus.  He urged ending the Bush tax cuts for individuals making more than $200,000 and couples making more than $250,000 a year -- and directing the first two years of new revenues to programs like unemployment insurance, food stamps and fiscal aid to states.  Blinder also advocated a WPA-style effort to reduce unemployment and spur private sector hiring.

I asked Professor Blinder if he thought the private sector needs a public jobs stimulus.  "Absolutely," he replied, saying he favors creating a temporary "WPA-type public jobs program," one which he said would also "kick start the private sector hiring process."

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