Unemployment is still hurting workers

Twenty Million People Became Unemployed Last Year

Sure, 6 million additional people got a job last year. But that’s the net figure; over 20 million workers were unemployed during that time.

By Matt Bruenig, People’s Policy Project

Jeff Stein had a piece last week in which he asked various economists why they think the public has a negative view of the economy right now despite the fact that, by many measures, it is doing fairly well. In the piece, Jason Furman answered the question this way:

Many economists — including top Democratic ones — say this trend provides a simple explanation for voter anger. The job market recovery benefits roughly 6 million Americans who have been hired, whereas inflation hurts the roughly 150 million Americans who already had a job last year but are now getting poorer, said Jason Furman, who was a senior economist in the Obama administration.

Unemployment is still hurting workers

Furman’s point is simple enough: the increases in hiring benefited a small number of people while the decreases in inflation-adjusted wages hurt a large number of people. But I think Furman’s argument here is actually weaker than it needs to be and the reason for this weakness is that his implied mental model of unemployment as affecting a specific, identifiable group of people who are out of work when times are bad but are brought into employment when times are good is not really how unemployment works.

When we say that 6 million people got a job last year, that is a net figure. What actually happened is that 20.3 million people lost a job at some point last year and 26.6 million people got a job at some point last year.

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Cancel student debt

Biden Could Just Cancel Student Debt

Of course Biden delayed the resumption of student debt payments. But kicking the can down the road won’t work. Cancel student debt now!

By David Dayen, The American Prospect

The Biden administration has succumbed to the inevitable once again, extending the payment pause on student loans, this time until August 31. As that date is a little more than two months before the midterms, there’s almost no chance the pause will be allowed to expire then, unless Democrats are competing to devise the best act of political malpractice in one election cycle. (Which they may be!)

This is the sixth time since the payment pause was hurriedly instituted at the onset of the pandemic that it’s been extended. We’re experiencing serious economic headwinds thanks to inflation, and there’s always the possibility of another COVID mutation leading to mass sickness and economic shock. But we can be honest and say that the pandemic case for the payment pause has passed, amid 3.6 percent unemployment and two years of surging economic growth.

Cancel student debt

No, the reason to pause student loan payments is more straightforward than any emergency measure: We’ve paused them for two years without many problems. Moreover, the chaos that a resumption of payments would occasion shows how unsustainable the system was in the first place. It all could be easily avoided by canceling the debt.

President Biden’s statement on extending the pause exemplifies this. He boasts about the nearly eight million jobs created on his watch, and the fastest growth in 40 years, but adds: “If loan payments were to resume on schedule in May, analysis of recent data from the Federal Reserve suggests that millions of student loan borrowers would face significant economic hardship.”

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Bill to legalize marijuana?

Sen. Schumer Reaching Across The Aisle To Legalize It

Will Democrats and Republicans work together to legalize it? Some experts are starting to get excited.

By Kyle Jaeger, Marijuana Moment

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said on Tuesday that he and colleagues are in the process of reaching out to Republican senators to “see what they want” included in a bill to federally legalize marijuana he’s planning to introduce later this month.

The leader was pressed during a briefing with reporters about the fact that he’s been discussing plans to file legalization legislation for more than a year. The new comments come less than a week after the U.S. House of Representatives passed a separate legalization bill from House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY).

Bill to legalize marijuana?

“We hope to [file the bill] towards the end of April,” Schumer said, adding that he, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) “are talking about it and, in fact, we’re trying to reach out” to other lawmakers about the forthcoming bill.

“I’ve reached out already to a few Republicans to see what they want,” he said.

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Jon Gerberg shows the Ukrainian stories of those left behind.

Ukranian Stories From Those Left Behind After Russian Withdrawal

Jon Gerberg of the Washington Post has been covering the Russian invasion. Now he turns to the Ukranian stories from those who stayed behind.

By Jon Gerberg, Amy Goodman, & Juan Gonzalez, Democracy Now!

As the Russian assault on Ukraine continues, more videos are emerging that show evidence of Russian brutalities and possible war crimes, such as executions and torture. Russian officials have denied the accusations, calling them Ukrainian propaganda. We speak with Washington Post video journalist Jon Gerberg, who has been filing video reports from the war for the past six weeks, and see extended interviews from civilians he interviewed.

As Russian forces retreat from Ukrainian cities, “we are pulling back the veil of the more active conflict that was keeping us as journalists from some of these areas,” says Gerberg. “This is a war that in over a month has had an unbelievable impact on both the men and women fighting it and the men and women who are stuck in the middle of it as civilians.”

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Julian Assange and our test for freedom

As Biden Pursues Julian Assange, A Major Test Of Press Freedom Looms

As Biden pursues Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks co-founder is exhausting resources and appeals and a trial in U.S. court seems inevitable.

By Jeffrey Brodsky, Discourse

In its prosecution of WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange, the Biden administration is setting up one of the most important court cases on press freedom in decades. Did Assange break the law by publishing classified information that others may have stolen? If he did, then much of the work of investigative reporters—who often depend on secret government, individual or corporate information leaked by sources—might also be illegal

Julian Assange and our test for freedom

The Justice Department got a win in December when a British appellate court ruled that Assange can be extradited to the U.S. The British High Court then declined this month to hear an appeal. Assange does have other avenues for appeal, but time is running out. The U.S. indicted him back in 2019 on charges related to WikiLeaks receiving and publishing thousands of military and diplomatic documents leaked in 2010. The U.S. charged him under the Espionage Act, under which no journalist or publisher has ever been convicted. If he’s found guilty of all charges, the 50-year-old Assange, who is an Australian national, could be sentenced to up to 175 years in prison.

The Justice Department’s pursuit of Assange under President Biden is one and the same as the actions it took under President Trump. This has surprised some press freedom, civil liberties and human rights groups, which expected that Biden would be a better ally on issues of press freedom. Some 25 such groups urged in a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland in October that he drop the charges because they “pose a grave threat to press freedom both in the U.S. and abroad,” but the Biden administration is determined to plow ahead.

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Peace activists debate over Ukraine

Building Peace: Activists From Ukraine, Russia, & The U.S. Debate

Human rights advocates from Ukraine, Russia & the United States have gathered around the Russia-Ukraine peace talks. Is a ceasefire near?

By Laura Flanders, The Laura Flanders Show

The latest peace talks in the Russia-Ukraine war may lead to an eventual ceasefire but not before displacing millions and damaging the air, water and land of what was known as the bread basket for the world. This week, we’ve assembled a roundtable of human rights advocates from Ukraine, Russia & the United States to discuss the ongoing conflict and who highlight models of local resistance and support. Our guests have been working for democracy in Ukraine, Russia, and the US for years and partnering with efforts across the world. What do Ukrainian and Russian comrades see as possible pathways to peace and justice, and what does global solidarity look like? What happens next will have long lasting impacts on all of us.

With:

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NATO invitation to Ukraine

Whose Bright Idea Was It To Extend NATO Membership To Ukraine?

“The 2008 invitation that NATO extended to Ukraine and Georgia was a bad idea, too, one which, as George Kennan noted about NATO’s eastward expansion, was an act of first-rate geopolitical stupidity, a gratuitous insult to Russia”

By Harold Meyerson, The American Prospect

Let me state at the outset that I don’t think the absurd invitation that NATO made to Ukraine in 2008 was the proximate, or even unproximate, cause of Vladimir Putin’s decision to invade that country. Given Putin’s commitment to creating a neo-czarist Greater Russia, I think the invasion would have taken place in any case. If anything, Ukraine’s more credible campaign to join the European Union, which would likely push Ukraine toward becoming a more liberal state, posed the greater threat in Putin’s mind, since a thriving liberalism on Russia’s border would make right-wing autocracy harder to sustain in Russia itself. Encirclement by NATO, which clearly wasn’t going to happen in any case, wasn’t a serious threat. Encirclement by Europe, with its less macho and more liberal culture, was.

NATO invitation to Ukraine

But the specter, however far-fetched, of NATO encirclement did offer Putin a pretext for invasion—more credible, at least, than the claim that Ukraine was a Nazi regime. But blaming NATO for forcing Putin to bombard Ukraine’s civilian population is a little like blaming Hitler’s decision to make war on Europe, Russia, and the U.S. on the Treaty of Versailles, which, as John Maynard Keynes wrote in 1920, levied ruinous reparations on Germany.

Yes, the treaty was a bad idea that helped the Nazis come to power, just as the 2008 invitation that NATO extended to Ukraine and Georgia was a bad idea, too, one which, as George Kennan noted about NATO’s eastward expansion, was an act of first-rate geopolitical stupidity, a gratuitous insult to Russia.

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Post office illegal spying

Post Office Blasted For Illegal Spying On Black Lives Matter

Inspector General: USPS Illegal spying program ran for three years. It was aimed at Black Lives Matter protestors.

By Jana Winter, Yahoo! News

WASHINGTON — An inspector general probe into the U.S. Postal Service surveillance program, known as iCOP, concluded that the agency did not have the legal authority to conduct the sweeping intelligence collection and surveillance of American protesters and others between 2018 and 2021.

The Postal Service Office of Inspector General launched an investigation into iCOP — which stands for Internet Covert Operations Program — at the request of Congress in direct response to reporting from Yahoo News last year.

Post office illegal spying

“We determined that certain proactive searches iCOP conducted using an open-source intelligence tool from February to April 2021 exceeded the Postal Inspection Service’s law enforcement authority,” the March 25, 2022, inspector general report stated.

“Furthermore, we could not corroborate whether other work analysts completed from October 2018 through June 2021 was legally authorized.”

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Ukraine: gas, oil, fracking.

The War In Ukraine Is Fueling Fracking

The war has led to an increase in the price of oil and gas. What are oil corporations doing with their windfall profits? Fueling fracking.

By Peter Hart and Mark Schlosberg, Food And Water Watch

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has been seized as an opportunity by fossil fuel investors. While consumers get hammered by high gas prices and spiking energy costs, top fracking executives’ wealth soars. Since January, the value of shares currently held by CEOs of eight leading fossil fuel companies has increased by nearly $100 million.

An analysis of leading fossil fuel interests shows executives are profiting from the crisis. While carnage happens in Ukraine, these predators are taking advantage of global price increases that have sent company stocks soaring. They include:

  • Fracking and LNG companies Cheniere, EQT, EOG Resources
  • Pipeline giants Kinder Morgan and Enbridge
  • And industry powerhouses Chevron, ConocoPhillips, and Exxon Mobil

Ukraine: gas, oil, fracking.

Fossil Fuel Titans Are In A Mad Dash To Profit From Soaring Gas Prices

The value of Cheniere CEO Jack Fusco’s company stock is up $25 million from January to March 10th. ExxonMobil CEO Darren Woods’ stock holdings have increased by $25 million over the same period. The value of Kinder Morgan CEO Steven Kean’s stock has jumped nearly $15 million. Some of these corporate leaders have sold shares to cash in on the crisis. ConocoPhillips’ Ryan Lance sold shares for $23 million in mid-February, while Chevron’s Michael Wirth sold $14 million in stock by late February.

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Medicare for All

Congressional Committee Discusses Medicare For All Next Week

Led by Representatives Cori Bush and Carolyn Maloney, Congress is holding the first hearing since 2019 to examine paths to Medicare for All.

By Aída Chávez, The Nation

Two years ago, when the pandemic first upended life as we knew it, many progressives believed Covid-19 would make a forceful case against the inhumane US health care system and galvanize support for Medicare for All. But after dominating the 2020 presidential primary, the idea of establishing a national, single-payer health insurance program has all but disappeared from mainstream political discourse

Medicare for All

Congressional progressives are trying to revitalize the conversation. The House Oversight Committee is holding a hearing next week on Medicare for All, the first to examine paths to universal health care since 2019—and House Democrats’ third-ever on the issue. The hearing is being led by Chair Carolyn Maloney and Representative Cori Bush, and will be stacked with members of the Squad, including Representatives Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Jamaal Bowman.

Lawmakers will discuss Representative Pramila Jayapal’s bill to establish Medicare for All and other reforms, focusing on how universal coverage could close the health care gap for people of color, low-income and poor patients, the LGBTQ community, people with disabilities, and other marginalized groups. Ady Barkan, a health care activist who is dying of the neurodegenerative disease known as ALS, will be testifying at the hearing alongside health policy experts.

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