I mentioned this in yesterday’s roundup, but the Senate finally passed a short-term extension of unemployment benefits and the 65% COBRA subsidy. They made it retroactive to when the benefits expired, and extended it for two months without offsets, giving them until early June for a permanent solution. The bill also includes extensions of the “doc fix” for Medicare reimbursement, federal flood insurance programs, and some SBA loan guarantees. The House quickly passed the same bill and President Obama signed it last night.
In his statement the President said this $18 billion dollar bill, which will provide a modest stimulus, was insufficient:
I’m grateful that the House and Senate moved forward on this temporary extension today. But as I requested in my budget, I urge Congress to move quickly to extend these benefits through the end of this year. I also urge Congress to move forward on legislation to help small businesses grow and hire and other measures to increase the pace of job growth. This is my top priority, and I will fight day and night until every American who wants a good job has one.”
Um, OK. Except there’s been little or no movement on that front. A micro-jobs bill passed into law back in March, mainly a flawed job hiring tax credit for small business. None of the other measures to boost employment have passed. The Local Jobs for America Act, which would pump $75 billion into direct hiring in local communities and is head and shoulders the best jobs program out there, hasn’t budged since it was introduced. The “Home Star” program, which would give rebates to people who do energy retrofits on their homes, just passed the House Energy and Commerce Committee, but it has a long way to go. Other ideas, like work-sharing or infrastructure spending, are DOA.
The latest report on state-level unemployment shows record high rates all over the place, and this is going into budget season, where more painful cuts and layoffs are expected in state capitals. Yesterday, new jobless numbers rose. Annie Lowrey explained the jobless recovery with two simple statistics:
1. Fortune 500 companies tripled their profits to $391 billion in 2009.
2. They also slashed their payrolls by more than 800,000 jobs.
Top companies are simply doing more with less and hoarding the profits. The demand shortfall in the economy is therefore enormous. And other than rhetoric, nobody in Washington seems particularly roused to do anything about it.