Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Disappointing Senate Jobs Bill That's All Too Easy to Forget

If you've already forgotten about the small Senate jobs bill that was approved in February, here's a refresher on what the bill included, and how disappointed progressive groups are in its small size and lack of ambition, in the face of a ferocious unemployment crisis.

Maybe the only thing that can be said was at the time, the Republicans were seeking to lard the bill up with even more tax breaks for business, so as a tactical matter, Reid may have been smart to cut his losses.

Now that health care reform is done -- why not hammer, hammer, hammer on the Senate to pass a much larger jobs bill. This could include the Jobs for Main Street Act passed by the House in December, with a margin of one vote and no Republican help. It could also include the Local Jobs for America Act (HR 4812) proposed by Rep. George Miller, and the Put America to Work Act bill (HR 4268) proposed by Rep. Keith Ellison. It could include the Gulf Coast Civic Works Act (HR 2269) proposed by Rep. Zoe Lofgren, and the Public Lands Restoration and Job Creation Act proposed by Rep. Linda Sanchez (HR 4291), among others. And finally, the Congress should cough up more help and support for ailing state economies.

With unemployment at sky-high levels, the key problem we ought to be worried right now -- as Richard Trumka and others have wisely pointed out -- is CREATING JOBS AND PUTTING PEOPLE BACK TO WORK, not reducing the deficit. Leaving workers and the states to twist in the wind for months or years ought to be completely unacceptable to policymakers and voters across the board.

Senate approves $15 billion jobs bill

By Tami Luhby, senior writer
February 24, 2010: 11:42 AM ET

NEW YORK ( -- The Senate on Wednesday approved a $15 billion job-creation bill that would give businesses tax breaks for hiring the unemployed and states more money for infrastructure projects.

The four-prong bill would:

Exempt employers from Social Security payroll taxes on new hires who were unemployed;
Fund highway and transit programs through 2010;
Extend a tax break for business that spend money on capital investments, such as equipment purchases;
Expand the use of the Build America Bonds program, which helps states and municipalities fund capital construction projects.

The legislation, approved by a 70-28 vote, is a scaled-down version of an $85 billion bipartisan draft bill that was crafted by Sens. Max Baucus, D-Mont., and Charles Grassley, R-Iowa.
Some 13 Republicans, including newly elected Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., voted for the measure Wednesday.

"Today's progress is a small step forward but an important one," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., who surprised many lawmakers last week when he announced the slimmed-down measure. "This morning's vote is a victory for hard-working Americans, especially those trying to find work. This will help our economy grow."

It now moves to the House, which may take it up as soon as Friday, said a Democratic aide at the House, which passed a more comprehensive $154 billion bill in December.
However, the bill does not extend the deadline to apply for unemployment benefits or the Cobra health insurance subsidy. Some 1.2 million people will run out of benefits after Feb. 28 if the deadline is not extended. Lawmakers are looking to pass a separate, shorter extension by the end of the week in order to give them time to enact a longer fix.

Also, unlike the House's bill, the Senate's jobs measure does not provide additional assistance for states. Many governors want the Obama administration to send more federal dollars so they can cope with yawning budget gaps.

The administration said on Monday that it strongly supports the $15 billion jobs measure but indicated it is only one step in the job-creation effort. The president wants lawmakers to take up a bill that would increase small businesses' access to credit.

Reid said the Senate will vote on extending tax provisions and small business job measures in the near future. The majority leader also said lawmakers will consider providing additional Medicaid money for states, which governors have been requesting.

"We have other things in mind," Reid said. "Remember, we don't have a jobs bill, we have a jobs agenda."

Still, labor leaders and left-leaning think tanks say the Senate must do more to spur job creation.
"We need to create 11 million jobs to get back to the level of unemployment we had before the recession began," said Lawrence Mishel, president of the Economic Policy Institute. "Yet the Senate jobs bill would create no more than a couple hundred thousand jobs."

CNN Radio Correspondent Lisa Desjardins contributed to this report.

Unions and liberal groups blast Reid’s $15 billion jobs legislation as 'puny'

By Walter Alarkon - 02/22/10 07:00 AM ET

Unions and liberal groups have dismissed Sen. Harry Reid’s $15 billion jobs bill as "puny" while calling for larger stimulus measures.More than two dozen organizations, including the AFL-CIO,

National Association for the Advancement of Colored Peoples (NAACP) and National Council of La Raza, warned Democratic leaders in Congress to avoid tackling the troubled economy through incremental action.

They urged the Senate to pass the $15 billion jobs measure, which features a hiring tax cut for small businesses, but called for much more legislation to bring down an unemployment rate the White House projects to average 10 percent this year, more than 9 percent next year and over 8 percent in 2012.

"If this $15 billion was the only thing [that passed], that would be like having an amputated arm and sticking a Band-Aid on the end of it," said Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, on a conference call Friday.Lawrence Mishel, head of the union-backed Economic Policy Institute think tank, described the $15 billion bill being pushed by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) as "small, puny.

"In addition to the $13 billion hiring tax credit, Reid's bill includes money to extend the federal trust fund for highway and other transportation projects, a tax break allowing businesses to write off losses from depreciating equipment and bonds for state and local government infrastructure projects. Reid has set up a Monday procedural vote to bring the bill up for debate, and Democrats hope to pass it later next week.

The left-leaning coalition is proposing its own jobs package that goes beyond the House Democrats' $154 billion jobs bill, which passed without House Republican votes in December.In a letter to Reid and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), the coalition called for an extension of increased unemployment and COBRA healthcare benefits for the rest of the year. The House bill provides $63 billion for a three-month extension of those benefits, which are set to expire in February.

The liberal groups' jobs package also calls for $40 billion for public works and job training programs, $70 billion for school construction, $10 billion in loans for low-income homeowners facing foreclosure and other provisions making it easier for distressed homeowners to keep their property. The coalition's criticism of the Senate bill echoes that of liberal Democrats.Pelosi said last week that House members want the pieces of their jobs bill, which features infrastructure spending and fiscal aid to state and local governments hoping to stave off public worker layoffs, in the legislative package that Congress sends to President Barack Obama.

"The House looks forward to reviewing the Senate proposal and working together on legislation that creates jobs and helps our families, small businesses and workers," Pelosi said in a statement.

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) said job-creation measures should include fewer tax breaks and more spending to directly create jobs. Brown spokeswoman Meghan Dubyak said the senator will back the bill but wants it to be part of a series of job measures this year.

"He wants to see legislation that helps unfreeze the credit market for businesses, helps manufacturers retool for the clean-energy economy, extends unemployment insurance and COBRA assistance and provides increased support to states so that programs essential to Ohioans can continue," Dubyak said.

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White House urges passage of summer jobs legislation

White House urges passage of summer jobs legislation
By Russell Berman - 04/07/10 04:30 PM ET

The White House is pushing for Senate passage of summer jobs legislation, sending a signal to African-American leaders that it would lend its support to one of their top legislative priorities.

An economic adviser to the president, Cecilia Rouse, joined the chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), on a conference call Wednesday to tout House passage of the $600 million bill, which advocates say could create as many as 300,000 jobs this summer. The CBC has pressed for the bill as a way of addressing the soaring unemployment rate among minority teenagers, which reaches as high as 39% for blacks and 30% for Latinos, Lee said.

The White House engagement came a day after black religious met with President Barack Obama in a gathering aimed at defusing tensions between the administration and the black community over concerns that Obama has not focused enough on the struggles of African Americans during the economic downturn.

“We have to do more,” Lee said. She praised the administration’s efforts to boost the economy and citing last month’s positive jobs report, but she joined the prevailing White House message that a 9.7% national unemployment rate was “not good enough.”Rouse said the administration was focused “like a laser-beam” on job creation and on making sure that its economic policies were “inclusive.”

The funding would go to cities and non-profits for summer jobs programs, and would build on money that was included in last year’s economic stimulus package. Rouse urged quick action by the Senate.

“It’s really important that we get the resources to the communities as soon as possible,” she said. As for the Senate, Lee said she was “confident that Sen. Reid is going to have the votes to pass it.”

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Saturday, April 3, 2010

Model state resolution on jobs crisis

A resolution to memorialize the President of the United States and the United States Congress to enact a new, broad-based job creation plan, including significant additional fiscal relief to states and local governments to foster economic growth and create and maintain jobs across the nation.

Whereas, almost eight million more Americans are unemployed today than at the start of the recession in December 2007,

Whereas, the number of Americans who are unemployed or underemployed has reached over 27 million,

Whereas, state tax revenues dropped nine percent during fiscal year 2009, the largest decline since the years directly following World War II,

Whereas, states are facing an estimated $350 billion budget shortfall in 2010 and 2011,

Whereas, teachers, nurses, police officers, fire fighters, and many workers across the state face the dire prospect of job loss during a time of economic uncertainty,

Whereas, families will have to deal with the reality of budget cuts: larger class sizes, an inferior educational asystem, reduced health care and safety services, and generally diminished quality of vital public programs,

Whereas, further budget cuts will only deter consumer demand, discourage private industry activity, lead to higher unemployment, and hamper overall economic growth,

Be it resolved by the [House of Representative or Senate] of the State of _______________________, that we hereby memorialize the President of the United States and the United States Congress to take proactive steps to create jobs and enact fiscal relief for state and local governments to foster growth, avoid further budget catastrophe, ensure that states perform the core functions that all American families deserve, and deliver jobs to Americans on Main Street,

Be it further resolved, that any job creation and state fiscal relief plan must include extending FMAP increases for Medicaid, providing additional support for education, boosting funding for infrastructure projects and public transportation investments, supporting the long-term unemployed to sustain them until they reenter the workforce, and providing direct financial assistance to state and local governments to perform the vital services needed to maintain growth in local communities across the nation,

And be it further resolved, that copies of this resolution be transmitted to the President of the United States, the President of the United States Senate, the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, and the members of (state) congressional delegation.

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More action needed to help ailing states preserve and create jobs

Good info from Progressive States Network on State Budget Crisis

Last month, President Barack Obama signed the $17.5 billion Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment (HIRE) Act into law to assist small businesses and spur job creation. This was definitely a start, but the gravity of the current crisis demands much bolder and quicker action. Congress needs to enact further state fiscal relief to support jobs and avoid the massive layoffs that threaten social and economic vitality in the states.

Federal action is still needed to provide support for state Medicaid programs by extending the increased medical assistance percentages (FMAP), boost funding for educational programs, invest in infrastructure projects and public transportation, support the long-term unemployed to sustain them until they reenter the workforce, and provide direct and comprehensive financial assistance to state and local governments to perform the vital services needed to maintain growth in local communities.

In the past few months, Congress has started to take action:

Jobs for Main Street Act (H.R. 2847): On December 16, 2009, the House passed this bill, which would redirect money from the Wall Street bailout to fund environmental and infrastructure projects, extend FMAP, support education jobs, and provide small business loans. The bill would additionally provide funding to public safety and law enforcement jobs, address public housing needs, and invest in clean and safe water projects.

American Workers, State, and Business Relief Act of 2010 (H.R.4213): On March 10, the Senate passed this piece of legislation to provide state fiscal relief through FMAP increases, provide support for the long-term unemployed though Unemployment Insurance and COBRA extensions through the end of December 2010, reverse a scheduled 21 percent payment cut for doctors who provide services through Medicare, and extend several tax breaks, such as the research and development tax credit. The bill also raises almost $40 billion in new revenue by reducing a biofuel tax break utilized by the paper industry and strengthening tax shelter rules.

The Local Jobs for America Act (H.R. 4812): Rep. George Miller (D-CA) introduced this bill last month to provide $75 billion to local communities to hire needed staff over two years, funding for 50,000 private-sector training jobs, $23 billion to support education and teaching positions, and $1.18 billion for law enforcement. Overall, the legislation would appropriate $100 billion to job creation efforts. Within a month of its introduction, the bill already has 105 co-sponsors.

Individuals and advocacy organizations should press their Congressional leaders on the need for action. If you are a state or local lawmaker, please sign onto this letter calling on the President and Congress to enact a comprehensive jobs plan, including relief to states and local governments to foster economic growth and create and maintain jobs.


Campaign for America's Future - Major New Jobs Bill Gains 105 Co-Sponsoring

Center on Budget and Policy Priorities - Recession Continues to Batter State Budgets; State Responses Could Slow Recovery

Center on Budget and Policy Priorities - An Update on State Budget Cuts

Economic Policy Institute - Dire states--State and Local Budget Relief Needed

Economic Policy Institute - Jobs Crisis Fact Sheet

Progressive States Network - Take Action: Additional Federal Job Creation and State Fiscal Relief

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Will Grassroots Push for Jobs Bills?

As Congress Leaves Jobless in Lurch, Will Grassroots Push for Strong Jobs Bills?

In These Times (3/29/10)

By Art Levine

Even as Senators skipped town before a two-week break without extending unemployment insurance and COBRA health subsidies, hopes are rising among congressional liberals and unions that stronger job creation measures could win the backing of emboldened Democratic leaders and President Obama. (Some state-based officials also expect state agencies to tide over workers at risk of losing their benefits before the Senate takes action in mid-April, while advocates for the unemployed are far more alarmed.)

But will progressives be willing to mount the strong campaign needed to overcome conservative and centrist resistance to major jobs spending?That's the political challenge, especially after the first stimulus bill last year was effectively smeared as a waste of money although it saved or created nearly two million jobs. As George Packer notes in his devastating New Yorkerarticle, "Obama's Lost Year," 94 percent of Americans don't think it created jobs in their areas.

Yet despite relatively weak efforts so far by Congress to create anywhere near the 11 million jobs needed to return to pre-recession employment levels, a targeted $75 billion bill co-sponsored by Rep. George Miller (D-CA) to save or create nearly a million local jobs is gaining traction on the Hill. "As long as the jobs picture looks like this [nearly 10% officially unemployed], pressure continues to build," the AFL-CIO's legislative director, Bill Samuel, told In These Times.

George Miller's bill—developed with mayors, county officials and others—will provide $75 billion over two years to local communities to hold off planned cuts or to hire back workers for local services who have been laid-off because of tight budgets. Funding would go directly to eligible local communities and nonprofit community organizations to decide how best to use the funds, as outlined by Rep. Miller. Yet even that legislation isn't anywhere near the scope of the $400 billion or so labor unions and its allies have proposed spending to create millions of jobs.

Read rest of article

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Rep. Rush introduces youth jobs bill (HR 4920)

Congressman Bobby L. Rush introduces legislation to invest more than $8 billion in reducing youth unemployment (March 24, 2010)

H.R. 4920 'Employing Youth for the American Dream Act of 2010' offers tax incentives to employers for hiring young workers

WASHINGTON, D.C. - With nearly 5 million youth between the ages of 16 to 24 being unemployed, today, Congressman Bobby L. Rush (D-IL01) took a significant step toward eradicating youth unemployment by introducing a $8 billion bill that aims to alleviate chronic unemployment, reduce the national drop-out rate, decrease youth violence, and provide a pathways of opportunity for young people and at-risk youth.

H.R. 4920, the 'Employing Youth for the American Dream Act' (EYADA), is a combination of training dollars, apprenticeship programs, employer grants for on-the-job-training, tax incentives, and preferences for youth hiring and opportunities for at-risk teenagers. The bill also creates a federally funded public service employment program that focuses on year-round jobs in parks, education, and infrastructure for young people.

"We all know the unemployment rate for adults is staggering but rarely do we discuss just how bad it is for our most vulnerable citizens--young people," Rep. Rush said. "More than 60 percent of our eligible youth workers cannot find employment and nearly half of all African American youth are unemployed. Our youth need work and opportunity now, otherwise we condemn an entire generation to the pitfalls of poverty and despair."

"We neglect these young people, especially those who are no longer in school, unable to find jobs, and are not being trained to be productive citizens," Rep. Rush continued, "but then we’re left to wonder and pontificate on why a large percentage of unemployed and troubled youth resort to antisocial or violent behavior. There are few after-school programs and no jobs. EYADA seeks to address that."

From April to July 2009, the number of employed youth 16 to 24 years old increased by 1.6 million to 19.3 million, the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S. Department of Labor reported in August. The youth unemployment rate is the highest rate on record since 1948.

Highlights of H.R. 4920 Employing Youth Jobs for the American Dream Act of 2010

  1. Infrastructure Training Set-Asides & Apprenticeship Priority - Authorizes a priority set aside program for all infrastructure, transportation or green energy job creation projects created in fiscal year 2011 to be targeted to support training and placement for disconnected youth. Provide preference with these job creation funds to contractors that create apprenticeships targeting youth from communities with "high unemployment," as determined by the Secretary of Labor.
  2. Summer Youth Jobs Initiatives - Authorizes $2 billion to the Workforce Investment Act for the expansion of the Summer Jobs for Youth enrolled in the WIA system through age 24.
  3. On-the-Job Training Tax Incentives - Increase the WIA funding available to $750 million for OJT for businesses to train and hire disconnected youth (out-of-school, out of work youth through age 24). Each contract under OJT can now receive subsidy for up to $4000 upon youth employment. Allows providers to include faith based and public sector organizations, in addition to private employers.
  4. Public Service Employment - Creates a federal public service employment program, authorized at $5 billion to support a national public service initiative that puts people to work in local parks, roads, schools and after school programs. Establishes priority for jobs to the long-term unemployed, low-income individuals, and disconnected youth (out-of-school, out of work youth through age 24).


According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the youth labor force, those between the ages of 16 - 24 working or actively looking for work, grows sharply between April and July each year. During these months, large numbers of high school and college students take or search for summer jobs, and many graduates enter the labor market to look for or begin permanent employment.

"This bill is just as important as health care as far as I’m concerned," said 19-year-old Anthony Rucker, a 2008 graduate from Las Casa High School in Chicago’s South Side. "When I don’t work that just gives me more time to be outside, hanging on the block and get in trouble. I need some type of work experience under my belt so I can step forward in the real world."

"Working helps you get the experience you’ll need as an adult," said Darielle Coleman, 16, a sophomore at Robeson High School, who finds seasonal work with local social service agencies. "Some of my friends don’t do anything but hang out and smoke weed and drink and get in trouble all the time. If they had jobs they’d be more focused on the future. I think what Congressman Rush is doing is important, even though people might not care right now. They will care when this pays off in the future."

Twenty-one year old Robbins, IL, resident Eric Goudeau has been unemployed for the past two years, despite graduating from high school and earning a reputation as a neighborhood auto mechanic. In the past he has worked at car washes, grocery stores and factories. "This will get a lot of young kids off the street and give them something positive to do. I thank Congressman Rush for giving us the opportunity to stand up for ourselves," he said.

Lucia Gonzalez, 18, student at University of Illinois at Chicago, said "College tuition is rising. Next year it is expected to go up twenty percent and it is impossible for us to help our parents and also pay for books if we are not insured jobs?"

Cordaro Johnson, 21 , student at Chicago State University, said "Everyone, no matter what their age is, should be given an opportunity to work. Many jobs require energetic, hard working individuals and often times; those qualities are within many young people. Many young people are eager to work, and the opportunity shouldn’t be taken away but ameliorated for those that qualify."

Rep. Rush commended youth job advocates across the country and the New York State Department of Labor for their diligence and assistance in working with him to address the issue of youth unemployment.

Link to press release

Read HR 4920

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