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The Senate has passed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, and pundits are pointing out that Republican opposition in the House give the bill little chance of becoming law. Andrew Rosenthal at The New York Times says this is another instance where the President should take action:
That’s why President Obama should step in. He should show the same personal commitment to this cause as the 10 Republicans who joined Senate Democrats in passing the bill, and sign an executive order forbidding discrimination among federal contractors against gay men, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people. That order has been languishing somewhere in the White House for years.

As Mr. Obama said last week, workplace discrimination is “offensive. It’s wrong. And it needs to stop, because in the United States of America, who you are and who you love should never be a fireable offense.”

Exactly, starting with the workplaces of federal contractors.

Jay Bookman at The Atlanta Journal Constitution:
The gay rights bill and the immigration reform bill have a third thing in common as well: Both are supported by large majorities of the American people. As former Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer points out in Politico, 68 percent of Americans and 56 percent of Republicans support the gay-rights bill, according to a recent GOP poll. Only 32 percent of Republicans oppose it. [...]

In both cases, a minority of one third of the one third of Americans who call themselves Republicans have demanded and been given the right to veto legislation that would open the doors of opportunity to all. It's just nuts. It's bad for the party and bad for the country. As Fleischer argues, "Politically, it’s about time for the GOP to do the right thing while acting in a more inclusive and welcoming manner."

And you can't help but think that in both cases, House Republicans are acting out of a stubborn refusal to take any action that might be construed as agreement with President Obama. It doesn't matter that it's the right thing to do. It doesn't matter if it's the smart thing to do. They have convinced each other that it amounts to surrender, and the notion that they might be able to share in the credit for enacting historically important legislation never seems to have crossed their minds.

Much more on the day's top stories below the fold.

Paul Krugman reminds us that we're not yet in a full recovery:

Five years and eleven months have now passed since the U.S. economy entered recession. Officially, that recession ended in the middle of 2009, but nobody would argue that we’ve had anything like a full recovery. Official unemployment remains high, and it would be much higher if so many people hadn’t dropped out of the labor force. Long-term unemployment — the number of people who have been out of work for six months or more — is four times what it was before the recession.

These dry numbers translate into millions of human tragedies — homes lost, careers destroyed, young people who can’t get their lives started. And many people have pleaded all along for policies that put job creation front and center. Their pleas have, however, been drowned out by the voices of conventional prudence. We can’t spend more money on jobs, say these voices, because that would mean more debt. We can’t even hire unemployed workers and put idle savings to work building roads, tunnels, schools. Never mind the short run, we have to think about the future!

The bitter irony, then, is that it turns out that by failing to address unemployment, we have, in fact, been sacrificing the future, too. What passes these days for sound policy is in fact a form of economic self-mutilation, which will cripple America for many years to come. Or so say researchers from the Federal Reserve, and I’m sorry to say that I believe them.

Those affected the most by the economy are, of course, the poor, and as Teresa Tritch highlights, their plight should have swayed lawmakers against cutting social safety net programs:
If Congress were swayed by facts and evidence, lawmakers would not be considering cuts to food stamps and unemployment benefits. And the White House would rethink the cuts to Social Security that it included in its most recent budget.

The latest proof of how indispensable those programs are came on Wednesday, when the Census Bureau released new poverty figures under its so-called Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM). Poverty is high in the United States no matter how it is measured, but the SPM — which puts the overall poverty rate at 16 percent, or 50 million people — shows that it would be much worse if not for government aid.

Alexandra Ashbrook and Patty Stonesifer, writing in The Washington Post, add their take:
At this time of year, many fortunate Americans recognize and respond to hunger with generous donations to food drives, including Thanksgiving turkey drives. This generosity is wonderful, and the nation’s network of pantries and food banks is a precious resource, but we need to keep its reach in perspective. The SNAP program provides about 20 times as much help as the entire charitable food network. That means when SNAP benefits are cut by 5 percent, charitable organizations have to double their contributions across the nation to keep up.

In reality, there is no way that charitable efforts can quell the ongoing hunger of Americans who are now expected to live on SNAP benefits averaging less than $1.40 per person per meal. Churches and food banks will be the first to say that they simply cannot cover recent and proposed cuts. In the District, Martha’s Table’s food budget is $1 million for the entire year. We cannot possibly make up for $15 million in cuts.

Americans can end this hunger. We must acknowledge the devastation caused by these SNAP cuts and oppose further reductions. In addition to donating turkeys, let us advocate change. People earning low wages and those without jobs or adequate retirement or disability benefits cannot afford to purchase food, pay rent and utilities and meet the other necessities of life. In the long term, Americans need a higher minimum wage, more job training and creation, affordable housing, and stronger income supports such as unemployment insurance, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families benefits and child-care subsidies.


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