How Cutting Jobless Benefits Cut Joblessness

During his December 2013 Hawaiian vacation, President Obama phoned lawmakers, asking them to extend unemployment benefits.  They did not.    Which is a good thing, according to a new study published by NBER. [Credit: Fox News]

During his December 2013 Hawaiian vacation, President Obama phoned lawmakers, asking them to extend unemployment benefits. They did not. Which is a good thing, according to a new study published by NBER. [Credit: Fox News]

A little more than a year ago, the President was distressed.  It was a few days after Christmas 2013, and extended unemployment benefits for 1.3 million people were about to expire.  In a typically perfunctory lobbying effort, he called two Senators to urge them to move a bill to preserve the benefits.

To recover from his exertions, he and his family then “ventured to the white-sand beach at Bellows Air Force Station, which is on the windward side of the island of Oahu and features turquoise water and a stunning view of the Mokulua Islands,” the Washington Post reported.

That tranquil scene augured the best year for U.S. employment growth since 1999.   According to the Labor Department, the economy added more than 3.1 million jobs in 2014.  The topline unemployment rate was 5.6% in December, down from 6.7% the prior December and the lowest rate since June 2008.

And here is the surprising major reason for the resurgence in employment: Congress spurned the President’s entreaties and let extended unemployment benefits expire. Continue reading

Student Loans: Punishing People Who Play By The Rules

President Obama believes that requiring student loans to be repaid is punishing good behavior.  [Credit: NPR]

President Obama believes that requiring student loans to be repaid is punishing good behavior. [Credit: NPR]

“If somebody plays by the rules, they shouldn’t be punished for it.” — President Obama

The President made this inarguable statement in the course of proclaiming a change in the law governing student loans.  Henceforth, millions of people who borrowed for college will have their monthly payments restructured and, in some cases, be entirely relieved of the obligation to repay their debt.

In the President’s mind, borrowing money is playing by the rules; paying it back is punishment. Continue reading

Is Congress Still Relevant?

All 100 Senators gathered last year for this photo. They have done little since. Have they become irrelevant? [Credit: senate.gov]

All 100 Senators gathered last year for this photo. Under Harry Reid’s leadership, they have done little since. Have they become irrelevant? [Credit: senate.gov]

Here is all you need to know about the decline of the United States Congress: a US Senator recently asked a federal judge to block the Obama Administration from unlawfully subsidizing his own health insurance coverage.

The lawsuit illustrates how Congress has become a subservient branch of the federal government.  Subject to the whim of the Executive Branch, one of its Members must now appeal to the Judicial Branch for relief.  Actually legislating seems out of the question. Continue reading

Unemployment Benefits and Harry Reid’s Pain

Harry Reid has embraced the pain of sequestration in his proposal to extend jobless benefits. But does it address the problem? [Credit: Roll Call]

Harry Reid has embraced the pain of sequestration in his proposal to extend jobless benefits. But does it address the problem? [Credit: Roll Call]

“I think it’s really unfair that it would be so easy to turn the sequester around and allow us to do something for the long term to take care of this issue. But no, the Republicans like the pain. They like the pain.”  — Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, April 24, 2013

Harry Reid (D-NV) has lately embraced the pain of sequester. On Thursday, Reid advanced a proposal to offset the cost of extending “emergency” unemployment benefits with automatic cuts in medical spending for the elderly and disabled. Continue reading

How The Budget Deal Could Threaten Obamacare

An angry John Boehner (R-OH) lashed out at conservative groups who opposed the budget deal.  The deal strengthens his hand with his caucus and in negotiations over changes to Obamacare.  [Credit: Washington Post]

An angry John Boehner (R-OH) lashed out at conservative groups who opposed the budget deal. The deal strengthens his hand with his caucus and in negotiations over changes to Obamacare. [Credit: Washington Post]

“Frankly, I think they’re misleading their followers. I think they’re pushing our members in places where they don’t want to be. And frankly, I just think that they’ve lost all credibility.” — House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), commenting on opposition by conservative groups to the budget deal.

Last week’s overwhelming House vote to ratify a modest budget agreement has been variously depicted as a defeat for the Tea Party, a rare instance of bipartisanship, and a moment of rationality in an otherwise chaotic and dysfunctional budget process. It is all of those things and something more: a new threat to the already troubled implementation of Obamacare. Continue reading

Welfare or Work: A Difficult Choice

The choice between welfare and work is not always an easy one, according to a new study by the Cato Institute.  (Credit: LA Times)

The choice between welfare and work is not always an easy one, according to a new study by the Cato Institute. (Credit: LA Times)

(NOTE: This post was updated on September 23 to incorporate the government’s newly-released poverty rate data.)

If forced to choose between a full-time job that paid $24.40 per hour and enrolling in a package of government benefits that paid a comparable amount, which would you choose? Continue reading

Republicans Getting Deficit Reduction, But President Getting His Way

The President and Speaker are headed for another budget confrontation.  [Credit: Fox News]

The President and Speaker are headed for another budget confrontation. [Credit: Fox News]

Congress is on holiday, resting up for the next round of budget wars that will resume after Labor Day. The issues they will face when they return are familiar: the federal government is about to lose authority to do what it does best (or, at least, most naturally) – borrow and spend. Continue reading