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Trump And His Senate Enablers Push Economy Over A Cliff

Donald Trump & Co. have thrown already rapidly collapsing America off an economic cliff. Over the next few weeks, they will pound the wreckage, even set it afire, unless they get a lucrative new favor for Corporate America.

The Trumpians are actively ruining our economy because, in a perverse way, they share the belief of the Black Lives Matter protesters that the American justice system can't be trusted. Both Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-KY) cruel recalcitrance on coronavirus relief and the Black Lives Matter demands are about accountability in the courts.

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Senate Republicans Allow Vital Jobless Benefits To Lapse, Then Flees Capital

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Despite the pandemic-induced recession, millions of jobless Americans have been kept afloat by an uncharacteristically generous act of Congress. In addition to their state's usual unemployment payments — usually a fraction of their previous wages — Americans have been eligible to receive and additional $600 a week, desperately needed support for people who saw their incomes crater.

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U.S. Senators Strike Deal To Extend Jobless Insurance

Washington (AFP) – U.S. senators struck a bipartisan deal to reinstate emergency benefits for two million of America’s long-term unemployed, easing a months-long congressional impasse.

A group of 10 senators thrashed out the agreement, which would extend for five more months the benefits that ran out in late 2013 amid congressional bickering over how to pay for the insurance.

President Barack Obama had pushed hard for an extension of the emergency benefits last year, but the effort fell apart, leaving 1.3 million jobless in the lurch when their standard 26 weeks of jobless aid expired.

“The president has repeatedly called on Congress to take action on a compromise solution to extend this vital lifeline for millions of hard-working Americans as they look for work and support their families,” a White House statement said.

“This is not just the right thing to do for these Americans looking for work, it’s the right thing to do for our economy.”

Lawmakers stressed that the latest compromise is fully paid for, in part through “pension-smoothing” provisions that were set to expire, and by an extension of customs user fees through 2024.

It would also include skills assessment and referral programs to help get people back into the workforce, and would bar all millionaires from collecting the unemployment insurance.

The cost of the current compromise was not immediately clear, but a proposed three-month extension that failed to pass Congress in December carried a price tag of $6.5 billion.

“We’re not at the finish line yet, but this is a bipartisan breakthrough,” Democratic Senator Jack Reed, an architect of the deal, said in a statement.

The measure will likely need to clear a 60-vote threshold in the 100-member Senate before going to the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, where it could face opposition from fiscal conservatives.

But lawmakers sounded confident that the agreement they worked out had traction.

“Restoring this much-needed economic lifeline will help job seekers, boost our economy and provide a little certainty to families, businesses and the markets that Congress is capable of coming together to do the right thing,” Reed added.

Senator Dean Heller, the agreement’s chief Republican author, applauded colleagues on both sides.

“This deal extends these important benefits for five months, pays for them and brings buy-in from both sides of the aisle,” he said.

House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer warned that “every week Congress fails to act will see another 72,000 Americans lose access to this emergency insurance and states lose $400 million in economic activity.”

“Once the Senate has acted, I hope House Republicans will work with us to approve a bill quickly that can restore peace of mind to those who continue to search for work,” Hoyer added.

AFP Photo/Mark Wilson

Companies Pledge To Aid Obama Initiative For Long-Term Unemployed

WASHINGTON — Chief executives from 20 companies are slated to gather at the White House on Friday, bringing with them a pledge not to unfairly weed out the long-term unemployed when they hire.

About 300 businesses — including 20 Fortune 50 companies — have signed a document promising not to discriminate against job applicants solely because they have been out of work for extended stretches.

They agreed to ensure hiring practices don’t “intentionally or inadvertently disadvantage individuals from being considered for a job based solely on their unemployment status,” according to the pledge.

At the gathering, President Barack Obama also will announce a $150-million grant program for nonprofit organizations working to connect the long-term unemployed with companies and develop interviewing, networking and other skills that could put them back in the workforce, the White House said.

The event comes as Obama is looking for ways to demonstrate he will not be hemmed in by a deadlocked Congress. He declared his plans to use his executive power in his State of the Union address Tuesday, and just completed a two-day, four-state tour touting new action on job training, retirement savings and education.

Since jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed expired in December, the president and Democrats have tried and failed to push an extension through the divided Congress. The White House says 1.6 million Americans have lost their benefits since then and an additional 4.9 million people could see payments run out this year.

The White House did not have an estimate on how many more people might find work under the new initiative to change hiring practices. Officials cited surveys finding that the interview “callback rate” was significantly lower for those who have been out of work for several months — even if their resumes are comparable to other applicants.

The pledge was drafted over several months with input from companies, said White House economic advisor Gene Sperling. He and other top aides reached out personally to chief executives seeking cooperation in the project.

Participants include industry leaders from all sectors, including Apple, Wal-Mart, Bank of America, Viacom and Morgan Stanley.

The White House took a “positive approach,” Sperling said, and noted that signing the document was not an admission of problems with past hiring practices.

The goal is to “establish best practices,” Obama said in an interview with CNN on Thursday. “Do not screen people out of the hiring process just because they’ve been out of work for a long time.”

Officials said the president would sign a memorandum ordering federal agencies to also follow the practices in the pledge.

The White House has been soliciting commitments from other groups on issues on which congressional action is unlikely.

Dozens of college and university presidents have pledged to do more to make their institutions accessible and supportive of low-income students, for example.

Obama has said he plans a similar effort around his push to expand access to early education.

Photo: Wisaflcio via Flickr