Category Archives: recession

In Case you Still Think Obama’s Healthcare Plan is a Good Thing

Obama says The time for debate has ended but Pelosi says: “We Have to Pass the Bill So That You Can Find Out What Is In It.” If they do not know what is in the bill, how can the debate about it be over?

16,500 more IRS agents needed to enforce Obamacare

New tax mandates and penalties included in Obamacare will cause the greatest expansion of the Internal Revenue Service since World War II, according to a release from Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas.

A new analysis by the Joint Economic Committee and the House Ways & Means Committee minority staff estimates up to 16,500 new IRS personnel will be needed to collect, examine and audit new tax information mandated on families and small businesses in the ‘reconciliation’ bill being taken up by the U.S. House of Representatives this weekend. …

Scores of new federal mandates and fifteen different tax increases totaling $400 billion are imposed under the Democratic House bill. In addition to more complicated tax returns, families and small businesses will be forced to reveal further tax information to the IRS, provide proof of ‘government approved’ health care and submit detailed sales information to comply with new excise taxes.

Americans for Tax Reform has a good breakdown of the bill by the numbers.

Isn’t it reassuring that at a time of recession, government will do what’s necessary to ensure its growth?

Final health bill omits some of Obama’s promises

It was a bold response to skyrocketing health insurance premiums. President Barack Obama would give federal authorities the power to block unreasonable rate hikes.

Yet when Democrats unveiled the final, incarnation of their health care bill this week, the proposal was nowhere to be found.

Ditto with several Republican ideas that Obama had said he wanted to include after a televised bipartisan summit last month, including a plan by Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma to send investigators disguised as patients to hospitals in search of waste, fraud and abuse.

And those “special deals” that Obama railed against and said he wanted to eliminate? With the exception of two of the most notorious — extra Medicaid money for Nebraska and a carve-out for Florida seniors faced with losing certain extra Medicare benefits — they are all still there.

For the White House, these were the latest unfulfilled commitments related to Obama’s health care proposal, starting with his campaign promise to let C-SPAN cameras film negotiations over the bill. Obama also backed down with little apparent regret on his support for a new government-run insurance plan as part of the legislation, a liberal priority. Full Story

Fact Sheet: The Truth About the Health Care Bill

The Firedoglake health care team has been covering the debate in congress since it began last year. The health care bill will come up for a vote in the House on Sunday, and as Nancy Pelosi works to wrangle votes, we’ve been running a detailed whip count on where every member of Congress stands, updated throughout the day.

We’ve also taken a detailed look at the bill, and have come up with 18 often stated myths about this health care reform bill.

Real health care reform is the thing we’ve fought for from the start. It is desperately needed. But this bill falls short on many levels, and hurts many people more than it helps.

A middle class family of four making $66,370 will be forced to pay $5,243 per year for insurance. After basic necessities, this leaves them with $8,307 in discretionary income — out of which they would have to cover clothing, credit card and other debt, child care and education costs, in addition to $5,882 in annual out-of-pocket medical expenses for which families will be responsible. Many families who are already struggling to get by would be better off saving the $5,243 in insurance costs and paying their medical expenses directly, rather than being forced to by coverage they can’t afford the co-pays on.

In addition, there is already a booming movement across the country to challenge the mandate. Thirty-three states already have bills moving through their houses, and the Idaho governor was the first to sign it into law yesterday. In Virginia it passed through both a Democratic House and Senate, and the governor will sign it soon. It will be on the ballot in Arizona in 2010, and is headed in that direction for many more. Republican senators like Dick Lugar are already asking their state attorney generals to challenge it. There are two GOP think tanks actively helping states in their efforts, and there is a booming messaging infrastructure that covers it beat-by-beat. Entire Article and Fact Sheet

See Also:

What the Liberal Media Aren’t Telling You About Obama’s Healthcare Plans for tons of links on the healthcare bill
Obama’s Health Care Plan Highlights- Read me and write your congressman and tell him vote NO
Healthcare Bill – HR3200

Related:
Buy Government Insurance or be Fined or Go to Jail
IRS Will Punish Americans Without Acceptable Health Insurance

‘A Crisis of Historic Proportions’

Unemployment moving map

The New Poor

Even as the American economy shows tentative signs of a rebound, the human toll of the recession continues to mount, with millions of Americans remaining out of work, out of savings and nearing the end of their unemployment benefits.

Economists fear that the nascent recovery will leave more people behind than in past recessions, failing to create jobs in sufficient numbers to absorb the record-setting ranks of the long-term unemployed.

Call them the new poor: people long accustomed to the comforts of middle-class life who are now relying on public assistance for the first time in their lives — potentially for years to come.

Yet the social safety net is already showing severe strains. Roughly 2.7 million jobless people will lose their unemployment check before the end of April unless Congress approves the Obama administration’s proposal to extend the payments, according to the Labor Department.

Here in Southern California, Jean Eisen has been without work since she lost her job selling beauty salon equipment more than two years ago. In the several months she has endured with neither a paycheck nor an unemployment check, she has relied on local food banks for her groceries.

She has learned to live without the prescription medications she is supposed to take for high blood pressure and cholesterol. She has become effusively religious — an unexpected turn for this onetime standup comic with X-rated material — finding in Christianity her only form of health insurance.

“I pray for healing,” says Ms. Eisen, 57. “When you’ve got nothing, you’ve got to go with what you know.”

Warm, outgoing and prone to the positive, Ms. Eisen has worked much of her life. Now, she is one of 6.3 million Americans who have been unemployed for six months or longer, the largest number since the government began keeping track in 1948. That is more than double the toll in the next-worst period, in the early 1980s.

Men have suffered the largest numbers of job losses in this recession. But Ms. Eisen has the unfortunate distinction of being among a group — women from 45 to 64 years of age — whose long-term unemployment rate has grown rapidly.

In 1983, after a deep recession, women in that range made up only 7 percent of those who had been out of work for six months or longer, according to the Labor Department. Last year, they made up 14 percent.

Twice, Ms. Eisen exhausted her unemployment benefits before her check was restored by a federal extension. Last week, her check ran out again. She and her husband now settle their bills with only his $1,595 monthly disability check. The rent on their apartment is $1,380.

“We’re looking at the very real possibility of being homeless,” she said.

Every downturn pushes some people out of the middle class before the economy resumes expanding. Most recover. Many prosper. But some economists worry that this time could be different. An unusual constellation of forces — some embedded in the modern-day economy, others unique to this wrenching recession — might make it especially difficult for those out of work to find their way back to their middle-class lives.

Labor experts say the economy needs 100,000 new jobs a month just to absorb entrants to the labor force. With more than 15 million people officially jobless, even a vigorous recovery is likely to leave an enormous number out of work for years.

Some labor experts note that severe economic downturns are generally followed by powerful expansions, suggesting that aggressive hiring will soon resume. But doubts remain about whether such hiring can last long enough to absorb anywhere close to the millions of unemployed.

A New Scarcity of Jobs

Some labor experts say the basic functioning of the American economy has changed in ways that make jobs scarce — particularly for older, less-educated people like Ms. Eisen, who has only a high school diploma.

Large companies are increasingly owned by institutional investors who crave swift profits, a feat often achieved by cutting payroll. The declining influence of unions has made it easier for employers to shift work to part-time and temporary employees. Factory work and even white-collar jobs have moved in recent years to low-cost countries in Asia and Latin America. Automation has helped manufacturing cut 5.6 million jobs since 2000 — the sort of jobs that once provided lower-skilled workers with middle-class paychecks.

“American business is about maximizing shareholder value,” said Allen Sinai, chief global economist at the research firm Decision Economics. “You basically don’t want workers. You hire less, and you try to find capital equipment to replace them.”

During periods of American economic expansion in the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s, the number of private-sector jobs increased about 3.5 percent a year, according to an analysis of Labor Department data by Lakshman Achuthan, managing director of the Economic Cycle Research Institute, a research firm. During expansions in the 1980s and ’90s, jobs grew just 2.4 percent annually. And during the last decade, job growth fell to 0.9 percent annually.

“The pace of job growth has been getting weaker in each expansion,” Mr. Achuthan said. “There is no indication that this pattern is about to change.”

Before 1990, it took an average of 21 months for the economy to regain the jobs shed during a recession, according to an analysis of Labor Department data by the National Employment Law Project and the Economic Policy Institute, a labor-oriented research group in Washington.

After the recessions in 1990 and in 2001, 31 and 46 months passed before employment returned to its previous peaks. The economy was growing, but companies remained conservative in their hiring.

Some 34 million people were hired into new and existing private-sector jobs in 2000, at the tail end of an expansion, according to Labor Department data. A year later, in the midst of recession, hiring had fallen off to 31.6 million. And as late as 2003, with the economy again growing, hiring in the private sector continued to slip, to 29.8 million.

It was a jobless recovery: Business was picking up, but it simply did not translate into more work. This time, hiring may be especially subdued, labor economists say.

Traditionally, three sectors have led the way out of recession: automobiles, home building and banking. But auto companies have been shrinking because strapped households have less buying power. Home building is limited by fears about a glut of foreclosed properties. Banking is expanding, but this seems largely a function of government support that is being withdrawn.

At the same time, the continued bite of the financial crisis has crimped the flow of money to small businesses and new ventures, which tend to be major sources of new jobs.

All of which helps explain why Ms. Eisen — who has never before struggled to find work — feels a familiar pain each time she scans job listings on her computer: There are positions in health care, most requiring experience she lacks. Office jobs demand familiarity with software she has never used. Jobs at fast food restaurants are mostly secured by young people and immigrants.

If, as Mr. Sinai expects, the economy again expands without adding many jobs, millions of people like Ms. Eisen will be dependent on an unemployment insurance already being severely tested.

“The system was ill prepared for the reality of long-term unemployment,” said Maurice Emsellem, a policy director for the National Employment Law Project. “Now, you add a severe recession, and you have created a crisis of historic proportions.”

Fewer Protections

Some poverty experts say the broader social safety net is not up to cushioning the impact of the worst downturn since the Great Depression. Social services are less extensive than during the last period of double-digit unemployment, in the early 1980s.

On average, only two-thirds of unemployed people received state-provided unemployment checks last year, according to the Labor Department. The rest either exhausted their benefits, fell short of requirements or did not apply.

“You have very large sets of people who have no social protections,” said Randy Albelda, an economist at the University of Massachusetts in Boston. “They are landing in this netherworld.”

When Ms. Eisen and her husband, Jeff, applied for food stamps, they were turned away for having too much monthly income. The cutoff was $1,570 a month — $25 less than her husband’s disability check.

Reforms in the mid-1990s imposed time limits on cash assistance for poor single mothers, a change predicated on the assumption that women would trade welfare checks for paychecks.

Yet as jobs have become harder to get, so has welfare: as of 2006, 44 states cut off anyone with a household income totaling 75 percent of the poverty level — then limited to $1,383 a month for a family of three — according to an analysis by Ms. Albelda. Full Story

One Million Troops Ordered for Civil War?

Is Obama Really Preparing For Civil War?

According to an obscure report in the European Union Times (EUTimes.net), “Russian Military Analysts are reporting to Prime Minister Putin that US President Barack Obama has issued an order to his Northern Command’s (USNORTHCOM) top leader, US Air Force General Gene Renuart, to ‘begin immediately’ increasing his military forces to 1 million troops by January 30, 2010, in what these reports warn is an expected outbreak of civil war within the United States before the end of winter.

“According to these reports, Obama has had over these past weeks ‘numerous’ meetings with his war council abut how best to manage the expected implosion of his Nation’s banking system while at the same time attempting to keep the United States military hegemony over the World in what Russian Military Analysts state is a ‘last ditch gambit’ whose success is ‘far from certain.'”

The EU Times article continues by saying, “To the fears of Obama over the United States erupting into civil war once the full extent of the rape and pillaging of these peoples by their banks and government becomes known to them, grim evidence now shows the likelihood of this occurring much sooner than later.”

The Times story goes on to say that there are “over 220 million American people armed to the teeth and ready to explode.”

The Times article concludes by saying, “Though the coming civil war in the United States is being virtually ignored by their propaganda media, the same cannot be said of Russia, where leading Russian political analyst, Professor Igor Panarin has long warned that the economic turmoil in the United States has confirmed his long-held view that the US is heading for collapse.”

Many of us would be inclined to pooh-pooh such a story, but then there is this column from Bloomberg.com entitled “Arming Goldman With Pistols Against Public,” written by Alice Schroeder. According to Ms Schroeder:

“‘I just wrote my first reference for a gun permit,’ said a friend, who told me of swearing to the good character of a Goldman Sachs Group Inc. banker who applied to the local police for a permit to buy a pistol. The banker had told this friend of mine that senior Goldman people have loaded up on firearms and are now equipped to defend themselves if there is a populist uprising against the bank.” Full Story

Obama Nation: Ray of Hope has Already Darkened for Many

State of Obama Nation: One year on from America’s choice

World Wants to Divorce Itself From U.S. Dollar

“US is on the slippery slope to economic collapse”

Max Keiser: Goldman Sachs More Dangerous than bin Laden

Part One
Max Keiser takes offense to Goldman Sachs story

Part Two
Max Keiser takes offense to Goldman Sachs oligarchy

Obama Sees Light at end of Tunnel in a Shrinking Economy

Obama Says “pointed in the Right Direction”

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US food stamp list tops 34 million for first time

For the first time, more than 34 million Americans received food stamps, which help poor people buy groceries, government figures said on Thursday, a sign of the longest and one of the deepest recessions since the Great Depression

Enrollment surged by 2 percent to reach a record 34.4 million people, or one in nine Americans, in May, the latest month for which figures are available.

It was the sixth month in a row that enrollment set a record. Every state recorded a gain in participation from April. Florida had the largest increase at 4.2 percent.

Food stamp enrollment is highest during times of economic stress. The U.S. unemployment rate of 9.5 percent is the highest in 26 years.

Average benefit was $133.65 in May per person. The economic stimulus package enacted earlier this year included a temporary increase in food stamp benefits of $80 a month for a family of four. Full Story

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Demand At Food Banks Up, Even In Well-Off D.C. Suburbs

Mezmure Dawit, 22, showed up at the food bank in Fairfax, Va., looking for help. He said he’d lost his job as a maintenance man at an apartment building last month and he needed food for his 14-year-old brother and 18-year-old sister.

He said their father had left them five months ago. “He just left. No money, nothing,” said Dawit, wearing crisp blue jeans and a striped shirt. “It’s been hard, man.”

As the national unemployment rate nears 10 percent, more and more people are turning to food banks for help keeping food on their plates. Feeding America, the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief charity, reports that demand at food banks across the United States is up 30 percent from last year.

Feeding America spokeswoman Maura Daly told the Huffington Post that as recently as May of last year, 90 percent of Feeding America’s clients cited food and fuel costs as their reasons for needing assistance. By December 90 percent were citing unemployment as the primary reason. Full Story

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U.S. Recession Worst Since Great Depression, Revised Data Show

The first 12 months of the U.S. recession saw the economy shrink more than twice as much as previously estimated, reflecting even bigger declines in consumer spending and housing, revised figures showed.

The world’s largest economy contracted 1.9 percent from the fourth quarter of 2007 to the last three months of 2008, compared with the 0.8 percent drop previously on the books, the Commerce Department said yesterday in Washington. Gross domestic product has shrunk 3.9 percent in the past year, the report said, indicating the worst slump since the Great Depression.

Updated statistics also showed that Americans earned more over the last 10 years and socked away a larger share of that cash in savings. The report signals the process of repairing tattered balance sheets following the biggest drop in household wealth on record may be further along than anticipated.

“The current downturn beginning in 2008 is more pronounced,” Steven Landefeld, director of the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis, said in a press briefing this week. The revisions were in line with past experience in which initial figures tended to underestimate the severity of contractions during their early stages, he said.