Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Major Task Facing Congress, the White House, and the American People


Herbert gets it absolutely right in his analysis and the White House, Congress, and the Democratic & Republican parties are completely wrong. Meanwhile the rest of us continue to be victimized by the rapacious corporate state that this country has become...



They Still Don’t Get It
January 22, 2010
New York Times

How loud do the alarms have to get? There is an economic emergency in the country with millions upon millions of Americans riddled with fear and anxiety as they struggle with long-term joblessness, home foreclosures, personal bankruptcies and dwindling opportunities for themselves and their children.

The door is being slammed on the American dream and the politicians, including the president and his Democratic allies on Capitol Hill, seem not just helpless to deal with the crisis, but completely out of touch with the hardships that have fallen on so many.

While the nation was suffering through the worst economy since the Depression, the Democrats wasted a year squabbling like unruly toddlers over health insurance legislation. No one in his or her right mind could have believed that a workable, efficient, cost-effective system could come out of the monstrously ugly plan that finally emerged from the Senate after long months of shady alliances, disgraceful back-room deals, outlandish payoffs and abject capitulation to the insurance companies and giant pharmaceutical outfits.

The public interest? Forget about it.

With the power elite consumed with its incessant, discordant fiddling over health care, the economic plight of ordinary Americans, from the middle class to the very poor, got pathetically short shrift. And there is no evidence, even now, that leaders of either party fully grasp the depth of the crisis, which began long before the official start of the Great Recession in December 2007.

A new study from the Brookings Institution tells us that the largest and fastest-growing population of poor people in the U.S. is in the suburbs. You don’t hear about this from the politicians who are always so anxious to tell you, in between fund-raisers and photo-ops, what a great job they’re doing. From 2000 to 2008, the number of poor people in the U.S. grew by 5.2 million, reaching nearly 40 million. That represented an increase of 15.4 percent in the poor population, which was more than twice the increase in the population as a whole during that period.

The study does not include data from 2009, when so many millions of families were just hammered by the recession. So the reality is worse than the Brookings figures would indicate.

Job losses, stagnant or reduced wages over the past decade, and the loss of home equity when the housing bubble burst have combined to take a horrendous toll on families who thought they had done all the right things and were living the dream. A great deal of that bleeding is in the suburbs. The study, compiled by the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program, said, “Suburbs gained more than 2.5 million poor individuals, accounting for almost half of the total increase in the nation’s poor population since 2000.”

Democrats in search of clues as to why voters are unhappy may want to take a look at the report. In 2008, a startling 91.6 million people — more than 30 percent of the entire U.S. population — fell below 200 percent of the federal poverty line, which is a meager $21,834 for a family of four.

The question for Democrats is whether there is anything that will wake them up to their obligation to extend a powerful hand to ordinary Americans and help them take the government, including the Supreme Court, back from the big banks, the giant corporations and the myriad other predatory interests that put the value of a dollar high above the value of human beings.

The Democrats still hold the presidency and large majorities in both houses of Congress. The idea that they are not spending every waking hour trying to fix the broken economic system and put suffering Americans back to work is beyond pathetic. Deficit reduction is now the mantra in Washington, which means that new large-scale investments in infrastructure and other measures to ease the employment crisis and jump-start the most promising industries of the 21st century are highly unlikely.

What we’ll get instead is rhetoric. It’s cheap, so we can expect a lot of it.

Those at the bottom of the economic heap seem all but doomed in this environment. The Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University in Boston put the matter in stark perspective after analyzing the employment challenges facing young people in Chicago: “Labor market conditions for 16-19 and 20-24-year-olds in the city of Chicago in 2009 are the equivalent of a Great Depression-era, especially for young black men.”

The Republican Party has abandoned any serious approach to the nation’s biggest problems, economic or otherwise. It may be resurgent, but it’s not a serious party. That leaves only the Democrats, a party that once championed working people and the poor, but has long since lost its way.


What's that old expression about the role of too much water in nature? O yes I remember now: WHEN IT RAINS IT POURS...


Reed, other mayors tell Obama: Stimulus isn't working for cities
By Bob Keefe
January 22, 2010
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

WASHINGTON -- As if the White House isn't already hearing it from others, the nation's mayors delivered a clear message to President Barack Obama on Thursday: His economic stimulus program isn't creating enough jobs. "What we said ... was that the method they used for disbursing the first stimulus dollars was wrong," said new Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, one of more than 200 mayors who met with the president and other administration officials at the White House. "That approach just did not work."

Thursday's meeting between members of the U.S. Conference of Mayors and the White House comes amid signs that -- despite improvement in the nation's economy overall -- the country's cities are still suffering.

A report issued by the mayors' group this week showed the bulk of the nation's unemployed are in cities. It also predicts that most cities won't see a return to pre-recession employment levels until at least 2013. Metro Atlanta is home to about 60 percent of Georgia's unemployed, according to the report. It also shows that Atlanta is among the country's hardest-hit cities economically.

Thursday, Obama sought to reassure mayors that he knows cities need more help.

"While Wall Street may be recovering, you and I know your Main Streets have a long way to go," he told mayors. "Unemployment in your cities is still far too high. And because our metropolitan areas account for 90 percent of our economic output, they are the engines that we need to get started again."

Obama said the budget he will present next month will include new programs and added funding for the nation's cities.

Reed and other mayors want Washington to change the way economic stimulus money and other federal aid are distributed.

About 80 percent of stimulus money has gone directly to state governments, they say. Instead of being used to create new jobs, the bulk of the money has been used to save existing state government jobs -- teachers, law enforcement and others -- and for shoring up sagging state budgets.

If more money would flow directly to cities, the mayors' group contends, it could be used for local improvement projects that would create more jobs.

"Everything is about jobs now," said Burnsville, Minn., Mayor Elizabeth Kautz, president of the mayors' group.

The Democrats' stunning loss in Massachusetts' U.S. Senate race Tuesday reinforced that message.

White House officials indicated the president is receptive to making sure any future jobs creation package or economic stimulus funding adds more emphasis on federal aid to cities.

Reed -- a big Obama supporter in the 2008 election -- said he was encouraged by what he heard Thursday. But, he added, the White House needs to follow through on its promises.

Charleston, S.C., Mayor Joseph Riley, who has been in office 34 years, noted what's at stake: "An economic turnabout like this works itself out not at a national level. It works itself out in the towns and cities of our country."