Republicans who are playing politics with long-term unemployment benefits in the midwinter of a record-slow recovery are engaged in a very dangerous game, especially if they think they’re up to their usual tactic of pleasing their base by rooting out wasteful “welfare queens” and the like.
That’s because today’s long-term unemployed make up a substantial part of the Republican Party’s base. Economists say it’s false to suggest that most of those who’ve been out of work for six months or more are urban ne’er-do-wells looking for handouts, and that the benefits they receive only induce them to stay on the dole. On the contrary: The data show that today’s long-term unemployed, more than in the past, cut across every age, racial, ethnic, and educational group and are mainly suffering from a slow-growth economy that simply is not providing enough jobs for those eager and ready to take them.
And if they are made to suffer even more from an economic phenomenon that is not of their own making, they’re very likely to take out their anger politically on those responsible. “The Great Recession pulled in groups that were not highly represented among the long-term unemployed before,” including far more whites and educated people than in the past, says Josh Mitchell, a researcher with the Urban Institute, a Washington-based think tank, and author of the 2013 report “Who Are the Long-Term Unemployed?”
For some Republican legislators, the rhetoric being used against long-term unemployment benefits echoes the kinds of things they have been saying against Obamacare and the extension of Medicaid and food stamps, suggesting a new kind of class warfare.
But that may be a tactical mistake. It is true that African-Americans, a mainstay of the Democratic Party’s base, make up a somewhat disproportionately large percentage of the long-term unemployed. But that percentage is dropping as the effects of the Great Recession linger on in a slow-growth era when companies are still stingy about hiring, and it becomes more and more difficult for even educated, relatively skilled people to avoid the stigma of long-term unemployment. Whereas African-Americans made up 27 percent of the long-term unemployed in 2007, now they are just 22.6 percent of the total. By contrast, Hispanics — a much-sought-after GOP demographic — make up a greater share today (19.0 percent now versus 14.1 percent in 2007). And while long-term-unemployed workers tend to be less educated than employed workers, they are actually somewhat more educated than newly unemployed and “discouraged” workers — another data point suggesting that far more of them are part of the GOP base than one might think.
The long-term unemployed are also more likely now to live the GOP’s geographic strongholds. They now make up 26.8 percent of the total in the West (versus 19.9 percent in 2007), and they are slightly more likely to live in the South (34.8 percent now versus 31.7 percent in 2007) instead of in the Midwest (18.9 percent now versus 29.1 percent in 2007).
Finally, because economic studies show that the condition of long-term unemployment can last into the next generation, affecting the education and job prospects of the children of today’s sufferers, the political effects could endure as well.
With the economy operating at such high unemployment, economists say it’s much less likely that extended unemployment benefits will prolong joblessness; on the contrary, as long as they are getting benefits, today’s long-term unemployed are more likely to keep searching for jobs than dropping out of the workforce entirely. Under these conditions it’s also much more likely that a renewal of benefits will stimulate the economy by promoting more spending.
While the number has declined with the overall jobless rate over the last two years, the number of long-term unemployed is still at historic highs of 3.9 million, accounting for 37.7 percent of the total unemployed workers. Nearly 6 million more workers have dropped out of the labor market entirely.
About 1.3 million jobless workers who had been receiving about $256 weekly in emergency unemployment benefits have gone nearly three weeks without aid since they were cut off at the end of December. And while Republicans and Democrats have achieved relative amity on an overall spending bill, they remain ideologically deadlocked over the benefits question. Despite the efforts of their colleague Sen. Dean Heller of Nevada — which has the highest unemployment rate in the nation — Senate Republicans have blocked legislative efforts at even a three-month extension of benefits, saying they need to see cuts elsewhere in the budget to pay for them.
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Foreign Policy takes a look at the future of mining the estimated "100,000 near-Earth objects—including asteroids and comets—in the neighborhood of our planet. Some of these NEOs, as they’re called, are small. Others are substantial and potentially packed full of water and various important minerals, such as nickel, cobalt, and iron. One day, advocates believe, those objects will be tapped by variations on the equipment used in the coal mines of Kentucky or in the diamond mines of Africa. And for immense gain: According to industry experts, the contents of a single asteroid could be worth trillions of dollars." But the technology to get us there is only the first step. Experts say "a multinational body might emerge" to manage rights to NEOs, as well as a body of law, including an international court.
Not to be outdone by Jeffrey Goldberg's recent piece in The Atlantic about President Obama's foreign policy, the New York Times Magazine checks in with a longread on the president's economic legacy. In it, Obama is cognizant that the economic reality--73 straight months of growth--isn't matched by public perceptions. Some of that, he says, is due to a constant drumbeat from the right that "that denies any progress." But he also accepts some blame himself. “I mean, the truth of the matter is that if we had been able to more effectively communicate all the steps we had taken to the swing voter,” he said, “then we might have maintained a majority in the House or the Senate.”
Ronald Reagan's children and political allies took to the media and Twitter this week to chide funnyman Will Ferrell for his plans to play a dementia-addled Reagan in his second term in a new comedy entitled Reagan. In an open letter, Reagan's daughter Patti Davis tells Ferrell, who's also a producer on the movie, “Perhaps for your comedy you would like to visit some dementia facilities. I have—I didn’t find anything comedic there, and my hope would be that if you’re a decent human being, you wouldn’t either.” Michael Reagan, the president's son, tweeted, "What an Outrag....Alzheimers is not joke...It kills..You should be ashamed all of you." And former Rep. Joe Walsh called it an example of "Hollywood taking a shot at conservatives again."
In a sign that she’s ready to put a longer-than-expected primary battle behind her, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D) is no longer going on the air in upcoming primary states. “Team Clinton hasn’t spent a single cent in … California, Indiana, Kentucky, Oregon and West Virginia, while” Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) “campaign has spent a little more than $1 million in those same states.” Meanwhile, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Sanders’ "lone backer in the Senate, said the candidate should end his presidential campaign if he’s losing to Hillary Clinton after the primary season concludes in June, breaking sharply with the candidate who is vowing to take his insurgent bid to the party convention in Philadelphia.”
The team behind the bestselling "Clinton Cash"—author Peter Schweizer and Breitbart's Stephen Bannon—is turning the book into a movie that will have its U.S. premiere just before the Democratic National Convention this summer. The film will get its global debut "next month in Cannes, France, during the Cannes Film Festival. (The movie is not a part of the festival, but will be shown at a screening arranged for distributors)." Bloomberg has a trailer up, pointing out that it's "less Ken Burns than Jerry Bruckheimer, featuring blood-drenched money, radical madrassas, and ominous footage of the Clintons."