Democrats in Congress, along with the Obama administration, havehadtogotogreatlengthsonmultipleoccasions to extend unemployment benefits for out of work Americans, even with the labor market incredibly weak and fragile. Congressional Republicans have repeatedly blocked benefit extensions, and only agreed to the last extension in return for Democrats agreeing to extend the Bush tax cuts for the richest two percent of Americans.
However, even after all that, there are still hundreds of thousands of Americans who may be denied their extended benefits. According to a new report from the National Employment Law Project, nine states have yet to enact the required legislation allowing them to draw on the final tier of extended benefits provided by the federal government:
A share of $876 million is waiting to be tapped by Arkansas, Iowa, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Montana, Oklahoma, Utah and Wyoming to provide 13-20 weeks of federal unemployment insurance — the extra and typically last leg of benefits that jobless workers can receive if they have exhausted their regular state and federal unemployment insurance without finding work. If the federal funds go unused, nearly 236,000 long-term unemployed workers will continue to be prematurely cut off the full range of unemployment insurance Congress approved in 2009 — a maximum of 99 weeks in high-unemployment states — and their states will lose out on millions in economic activity to support local business and job creation.
These last 13-20 weeks of unemployment insurance are available to high unemployment states, provided that state law allows for them. These nine states, unlike 26 other eligible states, have yet to change state law to accommodate for extended benefits. According to the latest data, the unemployment rate is above six percent in all of these states; it stands at 8 percent in Louisiana and 10.1 percent in Mississippi.
Of course, some of the governors in these states have scored political points by grandstanding against unemployment benefit extensions. Govs. Bobby Jindal (R-LA) and Haley Barbour (R-MS), for instance, both made a big show out of “rejecting” extended unemployment benefits made available by the Recovery Act.
Last week’s report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that just 36,000 jobs were created last month. 43.8 percent of the unemployed have been out of work for at least six months, and there are still about five job seekers for every available job opening. To cut off benefits — and force even more economic contraction as people who would have been spending benefits don’t — is absolute folly.
Today, at a Tea Party event in tiny Eustis, Florida, Gov. Rick Scott (R-FL) unveiled his new state budget. Since his time on the campaign trail, Scott has been promising to pair steep budget cuts with reductions in both the corporate and property tax rates. “It’s not daunting. It’s going to be fun. It’s going to be exciting,” Scott said when asked about tackling his state’s budget woes. He has said that he plans to make Florida the “most fiscally conservative” state in the nation.
True to his word, Scott’s budget slashes corporate taxes, while raiding Medicaid services for low-income residents in order to come up with savings:
Gov. Rick Scott on Monday afternoon will unveil a proposed state budget that includes deep spending cuts of an estimated $5 billion and will ask lawmakers to approved a dramatic reduction in property taxes…He also wants to trim about $700 million in corporate income taxes in Florida, which already has one of the nation’s lowest rates. [...]
Another big target for savings: the growing health insurance program for the poor and financially challenged, Medicaid. More than half of Medicaid’s $20.3 billion tab is picked up by the federal government, which can halt some wholesale changes. Scott and the Legislature can cut up to half of the program’s so-called optional services, many of which are popular and are designed to save money, however. Regardless, the state would lose hundreds of millions in federal matching money.
Scott already presides over a state with one of the most regressive tax systems in the country. The average tax rate on a low-income individual in Florida is 13.5 percent, while the average tax rate on the someone in the richest one percent of Floridians is a paltry 2.6 percent. Instead of finding new sources of revenue, Scott decided to cut into services designed to help those who are already bearing the burden of financing the state, while lavishing tax breaks on corporations.
Republican lawmakers in Florida have already cast doubt on whether or not Scott’s spending cuts will actually come to pass, and Republican school officials worry that his plan to reduce property taxes will be “devastating” to the state’s schools. Ultimately, as the Orlando Sentinel reported, the GOP leadership in the legislature has said that it’s “unlikely to approve tax cuts this year.” This is likely a wise course of action, considering what happened the last time the Tea Party got its hands on a local budget.
According to the text of the speech Scott delivered at the unveiling, he plans to cut $4 billion out of Medicaid while reducing the corporate income tax from 5 percent to 3.3 percent. Scott envisions completely phasing out the corporate income tax by 2018.
Today, President Obama addressed the leaders of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a highly ideological right-wing trade association representing mostly large international corporations. Obama urged the audience of business executives to “get in the game” and spend some of the trillions of dollars corporations have compiled in the past year on job creation. Indeed, much of the executive leadership of the Chamber has spent the past few years rewarding themselves with millions in additional compensation while eliminating American jobs.
Trucking Manufacturer Navistar Inc Is On The US Chamber’s Board Of Directors:
– In 2010, Navistar CEO Daniel Ustian increased his total compensation by 27%, from $6.64 million in FY 2009 to $8.43 million in the year that ended October 31. The company has enjoyed healthy profits: in 2009, it earned $320 million, or $4.46 a share, and in 2010, it made $223 million, or $3.11 a share.
– Navistar has slashed jobs at factories across the country. In Springfield, Ohio, Navistar laid off250 workers from a truck assembly plant. At its plant in Arkansas, the company laid off 477 in 2009 after letting 300 workers go in 2008. Amid the layoffs and plant closures, Navistar, a major military contractor, openeda new factory in Mexico last year.
Telecommunications Giant AT&T Is On The US Chamber’s Board Of Directors:
– AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson was awarded a compensation package valued at $20.3 million in 2009, a jump of 35% from 2008. Last year, AT&T devoted an extra $8.99 million into Stephenson’s pension plan, ensuring that his retirement will include a pension “equal to 60 percent of his highest average salary and bonus in three of his last 10 years at the company. Although he’s not currently eligible for retirement, his pension is valued at an estimated $31 million today.”
– In recent years, AT&T has aggressively downsized its American workforce. In 2008, the company killed over 16,000 jobs as the recession hit. But in the last two years as AT&T enjoyed record profits, the company announced layoffs of “hundreds” in Kansas, 96 in Reynoldsburg, Ohio, 150 in Connecticut, 525 technicians in California, and 140 jobs in Oklahoma.
Agricultural Manufacturer Deere And Co. (John Deere Company) Is On The US Chamber’s Board Of Directors:
– Samuel Allen, the CEO and Chairman of Deere and Co., was awarded a compensation package in 2010 three times the size of his pay in 2009. Allen’s compensation was $12.29 million in 2010.
Health Insurance Company WellPoint Is On The US Chamber’s Board Of Directors:
– In recent years, WellPoint has reported record profits and extraordinary executive compensation. In 2009, WellPoint CEO Angela Braly was awarded a 51% compensation boost from $8.7 million in 2008 to $13.1 million.
– During the same period of high profits and highly compensated executives, WellPoint shed thousands of jobs. In 2009, WellPoint laid off 1,500 employees across the nation. Following the first round of layoffs, the company got rid of an additional 136 jobs in Missouri and 111 in Wisconsin. Notably, during this same period WellPoint’s trade association secretly transfered $86 million to the Chamber to fight health reform.
Despite bloated rhetoric about the virtues of “free enterprise,” the Chamber demanded taxpayer bailouts for its bank members (AIG, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, etc.), billions in taxpayer money for its defense contract members, taxpayer money for cleaning up BP’s oil spill, and preferential tax cuts for its millionaire executives.
As ThinkProgress has documented, the Chamber has a history of being singularly focused on boosting profits, not creating American jobs. The Chamber has pushed for unfettered free trade deals, sponsored a series of conferences to teach businesses how to outsource jobs to China, and even lobbied against legislation that would have created over 1.7 million jobs.
Several dozen protesters demonstrated in front of the Chamber today as Obama walked across Lafayette Park from the White House to the business lobby. Watch a video produced by ThinkProgress interns Kevin Donohue and Paul Breer:
– Lee Fang, Zaid Jilani, Kevin Donohue and Paul Breer
Lori says, “I was one of those 16,000 laid off by ATT in 2009. ATT laid off 5K in 2008, right before Xmas. I remember at the time, right when the 2008 lay-offs were beginning, that our Director spoke to us on a conference call about Stephenson’s big concerns were at the time. Apparently, he was concerned that no one would ride in the elevator with him. The story went that he got on the elevator and the first time the elevator stopped, everyone that had been on the elevator when Stephenson got on, got off – even though buttons had been pushed for floors that had not been reached yet. Stephenson’s solution? He encouraged all of the people on his ‘team,’ VP’s most of them, to impede on rank-and-file employee’s breaks in the cafeteria by sitting down with them and starting conversations. Randall Stephenson – winning hearts and minds wherever he goes! These are the minds that run our largest corporations today. Morons.”
Another National Football League season ended yesterday — with a 31-25 Green Bay Packers victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XLV — and it’s a distinct possibility that next year will be a year without professional football. The NFL’s owners have opted out of their collective bargaining agreement with the NFL Players Association, in the first step toward a labor lockout.
In 2006, the collective bargaining agreement was extended for six years by the owners, but they used their opt-out option just two years later, in a gambit to have the deal renegotiated. The owners’ beef is that NFL players currently receive 59 percent of the league’s revenue, which is slightly higher than players in other major professional sports.
“Clubs must spend significant and growing amounts on stadium construction, operations, and improvements to respond to the interests and demands of our fans,” the owners wrote on the league website, in an attempt to justify their desire to renegotiate the collective bargaining agreement . “As a result, under the terms of the current agreement, the clubs’ incentive to invest in the game is threatened.”
However, a closer look at the data shows that the current collective bargaining agreement has been a win-win for players and owners alike, as the growing popularity (and therefore revenue) of the game translated into broadly shared prosperity. David Madland and Nick Bunker ran the numbers:
Players have done quite well under these terms, with the median NFL salary in 2009 equaling $790,000 a year, according to data provided by the National Football League Players Association. Since 2000, the earliest year with data available, we calculate that the median NFL player salary increased by 79 percent, and since signing the 2006 extension, median player salary has increased by 9.4 percent, meaning that player salaries have increased even during very tough recession years.
Similarly, the owners have done quite well under the current agreement, despite their claims to the contrary. Since 1999, the year Forbes magazine started to value NFL franchises, the average franchise value has risen by 171 percent, so that by 2009, the average franchise was worth $1.04 billion — with 19 of the 32 franchises valued over $1 billion — according to Forbes’s annual “Business of Football” valuations. Since 2006 when the current CBA was signed, the average NFL franchise value has increased by 16.2 percent, a growth rate that is faster than the median player salary increase.
Of course, a lockout not only affects the players and the owners, but the local economies around where the games are played.