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  The rule of thumb is that if you want to know what is really important, listen for its deafening silence on the presidential campaign trial.

  For instance, we know all about Obama's birth certificate "scandal", but how does either candidate stand on America's longest war in Afghanistan? You know, the one we appear to be losing? There was a time in America's history when something like that would be considered important.

  We hear all about Romney's tax records, but we don't hear how the candidates are going to stop the on-going pillaging of the nation's economy by Wall Street. There was a time when the greatest theft in America's history would be fodder for political discussion. Instead we get the spectacle of senators groveling before bankers.

  The one thing that has gotten a lot of ink is the economy, and how both candidates are going to fix it. This is an important issue.
   However, the way the candidates are going about it is nothing more than a distraction from the truth.

  For instance, neither candidate has been using the word "austerity", much less saying how they support it. Paul Ryan wants to use an austerity budget to avoid austerity, obviously assuming that voters are too stupid to understand.
  Meanwhile, only three months ago Obama was lecturing Europe that they needed to shift from austerity to growth policies.

  What isn't being said is that while Obama was promoting growth policies austerity had already started in America.

 Cullinan is among about 1 million long-term unemployed Americans whose jobless benefits are phasing out this year as the federal government reels in Great Recession lifelines that provided unemployment checks for as long as 99 weeks in many states. By year's end, another 2 million will see their checks cut off sooner than Cullinan's were, because extended unemployment benefits, beyond the standard 26 weeks that states pay for, will end. Congress could renew the program, but many economists say that's unlikely.
  In case you werren't following the math, that's three million unemployed people no longer able to collect any benefits by the end of the year. That's an economic disaster.
   In case you were under some impression that all these people who are having their last lifeline cut off are finding jobs, think again.
 Extended Benefits’ rapidly shrinking rolls show why the number of workers collecting benefits is falling much faster than the amount of unemployed Americans. Some workers found jobs and others left the labor force, but many are simply no longer eligible for benefits.
   The number of unemployed has fallen by 1.7 million since July 2010, an 11.5% decline. But the number of Americans receiving any type of jobless benefits fell by 4.3 million during the past two years, a more than 40% drop.
 Let's see. That's 3 minus 7, carry the 4, and you get 2.6 million unemployed people who are simply sh*t out of luck and are about to be joined by about 2.4 million more unfortunate people. Nearly 2 million young people are no longer counted as part of the labor force because of the horrible employment situation.
    Yet this travesty effecting millions of American families isn't deemed worthy of political debate these days.
  "There's going to be lots of people without any income still unable to find a job," said George Wentworth, a senior staff attorney for NELP. "You're going to see these people not be able to feed their families and not able to pay their mortgages. It will have a devastating impact on a lot of local economies."
 It's interesting to see how Americans can shake their heads in disbelief at the economic suffering caused by austerity in Europe, yet at the same time be blind to it in their communities.

  The famous "99 weeks" that conservatives have ranted about officially ended last week, although it has been getting phased out for several months. It'll be interesting going forward to see how many Republicans aren't aware that their talking point is no longer accurate.


Before you get mad at Congress for cutting these benefits under such conditions, recall that it isn't just happening at the federal level. Many states are slashing benefits as well.

   Some states, including Illinois, Michigan and South Carolina, have trimmed even initial benefits to less than 26 weeks, and some have cut the size of payments and restricted eligibility. Florida residents must apply online and take a lengthy skills test, keeping some from receiving unemployment insurance.
        Under the federal compromise, states are truncating the second phase of benefits, which helps people unemployed from 27 to 79 weeks, when their jobless rate falls below certain levels. The reduction in so-called emergency unemployment compensation will affect about 600,000 recipients through December and 2 million more at year's end, NELP said.
So far, six states have their normal unemployment benefits below 26 weeks.
   States, which must balance their budgets every year, have less room for error. But before you give them a pass, consider that states spend the previous decade reducing their UI taxes and leaving themselves underfunded.
   “Thirty‐one states reduced UI taxes by at least 20 percent between 1995 and 2005.” Meanwhile, from 2000–09 the average UI contribution rate was .65 percent of total wages, “the lowest in the life of our federal‐state UI program.” That left many of the reserves underfunded, especially when they were called upon to respond to the financial crisis.
 With three million people losing benefits prematurely this year, it's possible that the headline unemployment number might actually drop somewhat more than the Fed expects because people will be dropping out of the labor force. (note: the Fed doesn't expect the unemployment rate to drop at all)
   Then Obama can declare how he has improved the economy, while Romney complains that Obama was really born in Kenya (or some such nonsense), and both campaigns can ignore the reality of suffering Americans.
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Comment Preferences

  •  Maybe after a few more decades of idiotic "debate" (6+ / 0-)

    someone or another will get around to the reality of the situation. When it gets so intense it actually touches one of them.
    See climate change.

    It is better to see what is about to befall us and to resist than to retreat into the fantasies embraced by a nation of the blind.-Chris Hedges

    by Burned on Sun Aug 19, 2012 at 07:24:11 AM PDT

    •  I don't think it'll take nearly that long (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Burned, greengemini

      If the economy takes another dump, and considering the slow-down in east Asia and the Depression in Europe this is increasingly likely, a real economic debate will be unavoidable by the next presidential election.

      ¡Cállate o despertarás la izquierda! - protest sign in Spain

      by gjohnsit on Sun Aug 19, 2012 at 07:28:04 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  that debate beginning four years from now... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        gjohnsit, marleycat

        How long will that go on before anyone of those overcompensated politicians actually allows action to commence? Action that will by it's nature take away the source of their overcompensation? They will bullshit their way through another election, and so on.
        Again, see climate change.

        Someday a change is gonna come, but it isn't going to involve politicians and elections decided by who had the most money. Until that is settled we get bandaids and not the waterproof kind.

        It is better to see what is about to befall us and to resist than to retreat into the fantasies embraced by a nation of the blind.-Chris Hedges

        by Burned on Sun Aug 19, 2012 at 07:59:27 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  I agree with you on this. It is beginning to (5+ / 0-)

      look like climate is changing faster than anticipated, and Nature doesn't give a shit whether we deal with it or not. In the meantime, it will be interesting to see what crime rates look like after a few years of huge numbers of people with no jobs, no safety net, no voice, no hope.

      A society grows great when old men plant trees in whose shade they know they shall never sit. - Greek proverb

      by marleycat on Sun Aug 19, 2012 at 09:35:11 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Politicians still kicking the can down the road... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
  •  Probably, they are both sufficiently bright that (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    gjohnsit, Burned

    they understand they can do absolutely nothing about any problems of any real significance and want to simply win the election. In addition to the problems you mention, how are either one of them going to end the War on Drugs/Minorities, end All Poor Children Left Behind, and stop the Civil Rights abuses of Homeland Insecurity and the militarization of the police? They can't, so they campaign on stuff that will not lose them votes. One of them will win, so their strategy will be successful.

    I voted with my feet. Good Bye and Good Luck America!!

    by shann on Sun Aug 19, 2012 at 07:41:59 AM PDT

  •  Silly diarist...dontcha' know the rules... (6+ / 0-)

    ...around here? We're supposed to forget about these people and these quite inconvenient truths until AFTER way too many more of these folks are disappeared, or worse the election! At that point we'll no longer be discouraged from posting diaries such as this and we'll be encouraged to write about Simpson-Bowles...again. And, we'll be encouraged to talk about the 4.5 million folks who are shit out of luck. (Who, by then, will be light years beyond just that.) And, we won't be h.r.'ed when we report on how Attorney General Holder needs to get a pair of balls, and how BOTH major parties in this country are pathetically captured by the status quo, etc., etc.

    "I always thought if you worked hard enough and tried hard enough, things would work out. I was wrong." --Katharine Graham

    by bobswern on Sun Aug 19, 2012 at 08:06:27 AM PDT

  •  And interestingly, it makes the entire "welfare to (7+ / 0-)

    work" argument all the ludicrous. Work, um, where exactly?

    202-224-3121 to Congress in D.C. USE it! You can tell how big a person is by what it takes to discourage them. "We're not perfect, but they're nuts."--Barney Frank 01/02/2012

    by cany on Sun Aug 19, 2012 at 08:20:38 AM PDT

    •  that s.b. all the MORE ludicrous. Sorry. I type (0+ / 0-)

      really fast and sometimes this site doesn't seem to keep up:)

      202-224-3121 to Congress in D.C. USE it! You can tell how big a person is by what it takes to discourage them. "We're not perfect, but they're nuts."--Barney Frank 01/02/2012

      by cany on Sun Aug 19, 2012 at 08:21:26 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I live in NC (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    PrahaPartizan, gjohnsit

    and my spouse works a somewhat 'seasonal' job. This is the first summer where he wasn't officially unemployed for a month or two, but the layoff between Thanksgiving and February/mid-March is regularly scheduled.

    The state came up with a new way to calculate benefits this past year, so it's not based on the last six months of earnings, but based on the six months between January and June. Which, because he's laid off predictably for at least the first two months, cut his UI benefits by more than $100.

    That wasn't done to cover tax breaks the state passed out (this state LOVES taxes on the hard-working riff-raff, have never cut them a dime on any level for the entire 20 years we've lived here), it was done because the state spent the money in the UI account on other things.

  •  The trick, as always, is to keep the American (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    gjohnsit, sunny skies

    people as far from having any meaningful input into our political system as possible. On this, both parties and the media agree.

    If overall election-day turnout one day descends to 5%, as more and more people find both parties mainly irrelevant to our lives, then the media will feature stories about how 12% (or whatever) of those 5% are undecided. So our political class can continue to pretend that we have a Democracy going.

    We have a Democracy, however, where democratic outcomes almost never happen. And nobody in power, or the big money, minds that at all.

    The Internet is just the tail of the Corporate Media dog.

    by Jim P on Sun Aug 19, 2012 at 10:06:29 AM PDT

  •  well done and said (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Speaking of sh*t out of luck...

    The unemployed have been screwed by non-compliant implementation errors in the Emergency Unemployment Compensation Program. There is a "standing decision" in California that backs this up and proves that the Department of Labor has published errors in the EUC08 guidelines that have no basis in any factual law.

    Not so much a "story", as far as writing standards go, but consider this a presentation of the facts from the investigator/whistle blower who won the appeal:

    Mr. President there is a serious problem with the EUC08 program

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