links for 2010-07-12
Jack Lew to Head OMB...

Government Policy in the Recession. Yet Another Washington Post FAIL

Dwight Michael Frazee was hit hard by the recession. And the Obama administration has:

  • boosted aggregate demand to keep the unemployment rate from rising from 10% to the 12-15% range.
  • extended his unemployment insurance benefits for 99 weeks.
  • boosted the level of his unemployment insurance benefits.
  • obtained what looks to be a HAMP modification to his mortgage.

But the Republicans in Congress have blocked additional action that would have made his life better.

Who does Dwight Michael Frazer blame for the fact that he has not gotten more help? Barack Obama.

And does Michael Fletcher of the Washington Post understand the situation? It doesn't seem so. Fletcher talks about how the 99ers have "few political advocates." That is not true. They have a president, about 230 House of Representatives members, and about 57 Senators as political advocates.

But that is not enough, given the Senate filibuster and the total obstructionism of the Republican Congressional caucus.

Michael Fletcher could write an article that helps people like Dwight Michael Frazee understand what the Obama administration has managed to do and why it has not been able to do what it wishes. But he doesn't.

Why oh why can't we have a better press corps?

Michael A. Fletcher: No extension of unemployment benefits in sight for the long-term jobless: TOMS RIVER, N.J. -- Even before his unemployment checks ended, Dwight Michael Frazee's days were filled with the pursuit of any idea that could earn him a buck. But few are working out, and now his nights are filled with dread.... [P]eople like Frazee, who have suffered the longest in the downturn, will not be part of that conversation. They are among the 1.4 million workers who have been unemployed for at least 99 weeks.... Frazee, 50, has applied for work at more places than he can remember since he lost his construction job two years ago. He has tried car dealerships, Kmart, Home Depot and the funky shops on the boardwalk in Seaside Heights, near Toms River. He looked into becoming a commercial crabber, working in title insurance and as a bail bondsman. But no dice. While searching for work, he lived on $585 a week in unemployment payments. But the checks were cut off in May when he reached 99 weeks. Now Frazee, who is married and has a 5-year-old daughter, is in a financial free fall with no safety net.

"My life has been total stress. I sleep maybe four hours a night, worrying about money," he said. "I understood the president and Congress had to stabilize the banks, get Wall Street going. I figured something would be done for middle-class Americans, that they couldn't abandon us. But I was wrong."...

With the federal extensions now up for renewal, Congress has shown decreasing enthusiasm for them amid increasing concern about the ballooning deficit. On several occasions, Senate Republicans have said they would not vote for stimulus bills that included unemployment extensions.... Congress's inaction has been accompanied by a growing sentiment among lawmakers that long-term unemployment benefits create a disincentive for the jobless to find work. "Workers are less likely to look for work, or accept less-than-ideal jobs, as long as they are protected from the full consequences of being unemployed," said Michael D. Tanner, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank. "That is not to say that anyone is getting rich off unemployment, or that unemployed people are lazy. But it is simple human nature that people are a little less motivated as long as a check is coming in."...

The growing backlash against unemployment insurance has left the 99ers with few political advocates. President Obama, buffeted by GOP criticism of his economic policies as unemployment rates hover at their highest levels in 28 years, has been struggling to win support for renewing the extended jobless benefits. Consequently, any help for the 99ers is off the table, at least for now -- leaving them angry at their political leaders. "President Obama talks a lot about making the victims of the gulf disaster whole, but what about the victims of this economic disaster?" Frazee said. "Nowadays, he seems mostly concerned with image. Now, he doesn't want to be seen as a big spender. But people need help."...

Here in Toms River, Frazee has not earned a regular paycheck since working as a $75,000-a-year laborer during the construction of the Borgata hotel in Atlantic City. That was in July 2008, just as the economy was imploding -- and just after he was returning to health after having a cancerous appendix removed.

Since then, he has not worked, save for a recent four-day stint cleaning up a construction site at a nearby state college. He has fallen behind on mortgage payments for his sunny townhouse, and he is staring at the prospect of foreclosure even after negotiating a loan modification with his lender, Wells Fargo. Most of the time, Frazee said, he has been confident that things would work out, if only because they always have. He started as a construction worker after his father's endorsement helped him land a spot in the Laborers' International Union Local 415 shortly after he graduated from Toms River South High School in 1978. When he wasn't working construction, he had jobs on oil rigs off the coast of Santa Barbara, Calif., and in the Gulf of Mexico. He also was a bounty hunter. "I've never been one to feel sorry for myself," he said. "I've always worked."

Until now. The longer he is out of a job, the more unemployable he feels. He suspects that potential employers are turned off by his age and by the fact that he has been out of work for so long. But he is moving near the top of the hiring list for his union. And in the meantime, he has been buying mail-order children's quartz watches from China and selling them on consignment at local convenience stores. He clears close to $3 per watch. "I'm a union construction worker, but I think I can be a hell of a salesman," Frazee said. "A lot of the stores around here are owned by Indian Americans, and they like me. They're taking my watches. Maybe India and China are going to help me out of this jam if my country won't."