Each morning, Bill Scher and Terrance Heath serve up what progressives need to effect change on the kitchen-table issues families face: jobs, health care, green energy, financial reform, affordable education and retirement security.
MORNING MESSAGE: Stop Blocking Infrastructure Jobs!
OurFuture.org’s Dave Johnson: “When the Labor Department releases its jobs report later this morning, it is expected to show a couple hundred thousand new jobs were created. That’s good — and vastly, vastly better than where things were when President Obama took office. But even these job-creation numbers are still far from enough to put all of the people who lost their jobs as a result of the financial-deregulation crash back to work any time soon. To do that, we need to be creating jobs at a rate of close to 400,000 a month for the next 36 months to get the unemployment rate down to 5 percent … we could knock 1% off of unemployment right now if Republicans would agree to invest in infrastructure projects, thereby putting millions to work, and making our economy that much more efficient and competitive.”
How Good Are These Jobs?
Many new jobs are low-wage. HuffPost: “More than half of all the jobs created during the past six months have been in low-paying industries such as retail and temporary help, Joseph Brusuelas, senior economist at Bloomberg LP, noted on Thursday. That helps explain why wage growth hasn’t kept up with inflation, despite the economy having created 1.2 million jobs in the past six months.”
New papers make case minimum wage is too low. CEPR: “…CEPR Senior Economist John Schmitt … shows that the minimum wage is now far below its historical level by all of the most commonly used benchmarks – inflation, average wages, and productivity … current minimum wage looks even worse when compared with two kinds of purchases strongly associated with a middle-class standard of living or the ability to move up to the middle class: a college degree and health insurance.”
Jobless benefits claims at four-year low, reports W. Post.
What we need is more inflation, argues NYT’s Paul Krugman: “Modest inflation would, however, reduce that overhang — by eroding the real value of that debt — and help promote the private-sector recovery we need. Meanwhile, other parts of the private sector (like much of corporate America) are sitting on large hoards of cash; the prospect of moderate inflation would make letting the cash just sit there less attractive, acting as a spur to investment … more of the ‘quantitative easing’ that is now the main tool of Fed policy should be a no-brainer. Yet the recently released minutes from a March 13 meeting show a Fed inclined to do nothing unless things take a turn for the worse.”
Obama signs “JOBS Act” dereg bill into law. NYT: “‘For the first time, ordinary Americans will be able to go online and invest in entrepreneurs that they believe in,’ Mr. Obama said … Responding to critics who say the law will open the door to investor fraud, the president insisted that these Web sites would be closely monitored by the Securities and Exchange Commission … Critics of the law, including the former New York attorney general, Eliot Spitzer, say it will weaken a 2003 legal settlement, negotiated by Mr. Spitzer, that protects investors by forbidding Wall Street research analysts to promote stocks to help bankers at the same firm win deals.”
Republicans Still Holding Up Transportation Jobs Bill
House Republicans not even trying to strike compromise with Democrats to avoid highway construction shutdown. Politico: “Now the clock is again ticking, and Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) said there’s so far been no serious attempt to include Democrats in the House discussion. Rather, Republicans have been fighting among themselves in an attempt to find a way to pass the bill with only party votes. Some lawmakers want to get the federal government out of the business of transportation funding completely, shifting responsibility to the states.”
“Why Does U.S. Build Roads If It Can’t Pay to Fix Them?” asks Bloomberg’s Alex Marshall: “Occasional disasters focus attention on the problem — the near liquidation of New Orleans because of inadequate and poorly maintained levees, or the collapse of a freeway bridge in Minneapolis — but, in general, the state of disrepair is so common that we simply accept it … ‘Every dollar spent in keeping a good road good precludes spending $6 to $14 to rebuild one that has deteriorated,’ says William Reinhardt, editor of the newsletter Public Works Financing. ‘Maintenance budgets are one of the first places mayors and governors look for money to fill budget shortfalls.’”
Energy Dept. undeterred from investing in clean energy companies. NYT: “Six months after the expiration of a federal loan guarantee program that backed $16 billion in loans to solar, wind and geothermal energy projects, the Energy Department has decided to offer a smaller set of similar guarantees by tapping another pot of money appropriated by Congress last year …”
Underwater homeowners getting federal help still hit with high interest rates. ProPublica: “Analysts say that the big banks are set to make major profits off of the Home Affordable Refinancing Program, also known as HARP, which allows homeowners with loans backed by government-owned Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to refinance if they owe more than their home is worth.”
11 state Attorneys General call for constitutional amendment to overrule Citizens United ruling announces Free Speech for People.
National Journal compiles the “Envy List” of the top 25 highest paid lobbyists.