Winning Progressive’s latest comments at the New York Times focused on jobs, John Boehner and the Tea Party, President Obama’s performance on Syria, and the threat that Congress poses to the U.S. Postal Service. (More)
Regarding Paul Krugman’s column Give Jobs a Chance, which urges the Federal Reserve to resist calls to taper off its efforts to stimulate the economy by buying long-term assets, Winning Progressive highlighted just how far we still need to go in creating more and better paying jobs:
We are, unfortunately, nowhere near the point where we can shift the focus away from job creation. While the 7.3% official unemployment rate is an improvement over where it was at the height of the recession, other data points show how far we have to go.
First, total under-employment, as a percentage of the labor force, is 13.7%, which includes people between temporary jobs and people who are working only part-time even though they would like to work full time. While that number has fallen from 14.6% last year, it is still far too high.
Second, as Professor Krugman notes, the civilian labor force has shrunk as people have given up even trying to find a job. As a result, the civilian employment to population ratio stands at 58.6, a number that is far lower than the pre-recession level in the 62-63% range and that hasn’t budged since the recession officially ended.
Third, wages have not recovered since the recession. Instead, while the largest portion of the jobs lost in the recession were in the “middle-wage category,” only 22% of the jobs created since the recession are in that category. By contrast, 21% of the jobs lost were in the low-wage category, but 58% of the jobs gained since the recession are low-wage.
These facts suggest that far more is needed to get our economy moving. Let’s continue focusing on stimulus, not misguided fears about non-existent inflation.
In response to the NYT’s editorial The Annual Republican Circus, which focuses on the tea party GOP’s efforts to defund the Affordable Care Act by holding our nation’s ability to pay its bills hostage, Winning Progressive urged that it was up to House Speaker John Boehner to show some leadership and get a budget and debt ceiling increase passed through the House:
The irony here is almost overwhelming. Jim DeMint runs the Heritage Foundation, which developed the individual mandate idea that is at the core of ObamaCare. DeMint also founded the Senate Conservatives Fund, which laughably claims that ObamaCare “will destroy our country.” There are many ideas that the Heritage Foundation promotes that would or are weakening our nation. But ObamaCare, which is making health insurance more affordable and accessible for tens of millions of Americans, is not one of them.
The reality is that the irrational rantings of the tea partiers is once again threatening to drive the US to defaulting on our debt, which would be an economic disaster. Faced with such irrationality, it is incumbent on Speaker Boehner and the rest of the House GOP leaders to show some leadership. The way to do this is to stop following the Hastert “Rule,” under which the GOP refuses to allow any issue to come to a vote unless it has the support of the majority of the GOP members. Boehner should instead allow the House to be governed by what a majority of the full membership wants, which would enable a budget bill and debt ceiling increase to pass with the support of House Democrats and whatever sane Republican members are left.
The question is, will Boehner lead, or will he continue cower in fear of the irrational demands of the crazies who make up the bulk of the House GOP?
Winning Progressive commented on Tom Friedman’s column The Man With Pink Hair, which critiqued President Obama’s performance regarding the chemical weapons issue in Syria, by explaining that our President’s performance was far more mixed than either his critics or his most ardent supporters contend:
You are correct that there are a number of things that President Obama did wrong on Syria. But there are a couple of important things he did right.
The mistakes started with drawing a redline, which boxed President Obama in once a chemical weapon attack occurred. The next came when the Obama Administration got ahead of itself of blaming the Assad regime for the attack without having the evidence lined up. It turns out the UN weapons inspectors have proven them correct, but it would have made more sense to develop evidence that could be publicly shared before publicly declaring with certainty that Assad did it. And finally, President Obama announced his intent to strike Syria without really even trying to get international support.
But our President did two things very well. First, he responded to public opinion. Once it was clear that there was widespread opposition to the proposed strikes, President Obama smartly requested a Congressional vote so that there could be a public debate. That is how a democracy is supposed to work.
Second, when Putin provided an opening to get off of the military strike path and towards a potentially better resolution, President Obama seized on it. That meant backing down from his previous position, and being willing to share or even cede credit. We would be far better served if more Presidents were willing to do those same things.
Regarding Playing Post Office, Gail Collins’ column regarding the financial challenges facing the U.S. Postal Service, Winning Progressive explained that most of the Post Office’s problems have been caused by Congress:
This column, unfortunately, understates the threat that Congress poses towards the US Postal Service, while erroneously buying in to arguments that the Post Office needs to be shrunk.
The reality is that the problem here is caused almost entirely by Congress, which in 2006 required the Postal Service to pre-pay 50 year of future pensions costs in only 10 years. As a result of this onerous standard, which no other employer (public or private) is required to satisfy, the Postal Service has paid more than $25 billion into its pension funds over the past five years. This past quarter, the Post Office earned $660 million in operating profits, but had to report a loss of $740 million because of the requirement to pay $1.4 billion into the pension fund.
With virtually all of the losses coming from the pension pre-pay requirement, there is no need to end Saturday delivery or close post offices. Such proposals are simply designed to slowly undermine the Post Office, threatening hundreds of thousands of good union jobs.
Two independent auditors have found that the Post Office has overpaid into its pension fund by at least $50 billion. Congress should revert those funds to the Post Office, eliminate the onerous pre-pay requirement, and then let the Post Office get back to its job of delivering mail.