Extreme and unusual weather has been rolling in with more frequency all over the world. Governments in most major countries have moved beyond debate about whether global warming is real. They are now busy making plans to deal with the costly disruptions and lethal disasters that climate change has already begun to bring.Meanwhile, Eugene Robinson at The Washington Post:
Not in this major country, however. Though their nominee for president in 2008, Sen. John McCain, declared that all the things that need to be done to cope with and combat climate change would be worth doing even if warming were not happening, the dominant voices in the Republican Party sharply disagree. They seem fixated on loony conspiracy theories that imply that the scientists of the world are spinning lies in order to destroy American capitalism.
Spring will eventually come, but too many American minds will remain in a deep freeze of denial. And because so many of the deniers hold seats in Congress, climate change will stay on the growing list of daunting problems that our political system is unable to address.
The Americans most obviously suffering because of Congress’s unwillingness to do the right thing are the 1.7 million jobless workers who have lost their long-term unemployment benefits.Much more on the day's top stories below the fold.
Democrats keep proposing legislation to extend those benefits, as has regularly been done in tough economic times. Republicans say they agree but insist — contrary to common practice — that the extension be paid for with cuts elsewhere in the budget.
Again, Republicans are wary of angering the party’s conservative base. It’s not so much a matter of increasing the deficit — a three-month extension would cost only $6 billion, and Democrats have proposed offsets — but that far-right dogma considers such payments a moral hazard that encourages idleness. Never mind that recipients of unemployment benefits, by definition, were employed until relatively recently and can demonstrate that they are actively looking for jobs.
Jay Bookman on the effects of the stimulus:
Five years ago yesterday -- it was just five years ago? -- President Obama signed an $800 billion stimulus measure designed to counter the biggest economic collapse and financial crisis the nation had experienced in more than 80 years. [...] Let's remember what was happening at the time. Nobody was spending money. Individuals, many of whom had seen their retirement savings vanish in the stock market collapse and their home value collapse as well, were shell-shocked and holding onto every penny they had. In January 2009 alone, more than 800,000 had lost jobs. Corporations and small business people were also hoarding cash.The Washington Post editorial board turns its eye toward the confirmation gridlock:
The only entity that had any ability to spend and keep the wheels of the economy turning at all was the federal government. And bad as things seemed at the time, we didn't really comprehend how bad it had gotten. Initial government statistics badly underestimated the impact on the nation's gross domestic product; at an 8 percent decline, it turned out to be twice as bad as anyone understood at the moment.
Without the stimulus, the situation would have been much much worse. It's important to document that success, so that the option will still be available to the next president faced with an economic crisis.
Uncontroversial nominees — and even those who rub some legislators the wrong way but are well qualified — should fly through the Senate. Instead, many are stuck waiting for floor time. When Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) tried to get two uncontroversial judges confirmed by unanimous consent last week, Republicans demanded hours of pointless debate. GOP lawmakers look set to mercilessly attack Debo Adegbile , the president’s talented choice to run the Justice Department’s civil rights team. In fact, the betting is that Republican senators, still smarting from Mr. Reid’s nuclear attack, will force the chamber to waste valuable time on all sorts of nominees. Even with the filibuster neutered, that could hold up or effectively block many nominees from advancing. Republicans might have reason to be angry, but exacting revenge on well-qualified would-be public servants, particularly those who aren’t heading into lifetime judgeships, is toxic for the country and the sort of behavior that led to the deployment of the nuclear option to begin with.Turning to a living wage, David Brodwin at US News & World Report debunks the claim that a higher minimum wage kills jobs:
The problem here is bigger than the partisan wars that get all the attention. Too many jobs are filled by presidential appointments, and too many of those require confirmation in the Senate, which only has so much floor time.
Higher minimum wages stimulate the local economy and bring in more business: When low-wage workers get a raise they usually spent it rather than sock it away in a mutual fund. In many cases, they will spend the money in the same places that hire a lot of low-wage workers: They spend it in fast food restaurants and low-end retail chain stores which account for many of America’s minimum wage jobs. So these stores get more business, which offsets much of what they lose by paying higher wages.