Friday, July 3, 2009

The Daily Strike-7/2/09-Scores

Good evening from San Francisco. Welcome to the Daily Strike! I'm a bit jet lagged, so forgive me for writing a short entry, but I want to get to a couple of things.

JOBS REPORT: The bad news of the day was the monthly job report released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The unemployment rate rose to 9.5, and companies laid off more than 475,000 workers in June. These numbers show a slight leveling off of the precipitous losses earlier in the year, but they are still grim numbers. The unemployment rate is the highest since 1982. President Obama said that the data is "sobering" and that his administration expects even more jobs to be lost. This is consistent with what he's said since he took office.

Of course, his Republican critics see it differently. They are using this data to claim that the economic stimulus didn't work. First of all, no one serious believed that we would be gaining jobs right now. Second of all, the only failure of the stimulus is that it's not big enough to offset private sector losses. That is solely the responsibility of Senate moderates of both parties, who wanted to compromise between the reasonable Democratic position, and the nihilistic Republicans who wanted to cut corporate taxes. I will note, however, that every time a bad jobs report came out during the Bush administration, Democrats were very quick to blame the President's policies. That's not to say there's an equivalency. Bush's policies were bad, and Obama's aren't, in my view. But the reactionary criticism goes both ways.

CBO SCORE: Remember a few weeks ago when the Congressional Budget Office scored the Senate HELP committee's version of health reform legislation? They said it would cost $1 trillion and would only cover 16 million more Americans. That report got all sorts of news coverage, and was used by every Republican under the sun to trash the plan. It turns out, that score didn't include the cost saving parts of the bill, which are an employer mandate (requiring businesses to provide coverage) and a public option. With those elements included, the cost of the bill actually goes down to about $600 billion, and would cover 97 percent of Americans. There are some holes in the plan for sure. The public option is not as robust as it should be in the Senate version, because it is being forced to compete with the private sector on a level playing field. We need to use the bargaining power of the public option to drive down costs. This score does prove that the Senate HELP committee has come up with some very decent legislation. Obama called Senators today and asked that the bill be passed by the August Congressional recess. He also promised that he'd put his full political weight behind this effort. That's what I like to hear.

That's it for a short entry tonight, see you tomorrow!

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