Activists gathered on Thursday outside of the West Chester office of U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, asking the House’s top official to look at reducing military spending when coming up with a budget.
The group of nearly two dozen — which included nuns, a veteran, a retiree advocate, a small businessman and progressive activists — held signs reading, “It is time for Nation Building in the United States. Cut Massive Pentagon Budget Now!” and “End Tax Breaks for Richest 2%.”
“We’re here today in front of Speaker of the House John Boehner’s West Chester office to drive home the fact that we believe that over 50 percent of the budget magically, this elephant in the House, has failed to be discussed as we discuss taking away services that provide human needs,” said David Little of Progress Ohio.
“Any discussion that fails to address excesses in that budget is failing the American people.”
Little added that it was possible to support the troops and veterans without spending billions on pointless wars.
Butler County attorney and Navy veteran Bruce Carter said the military can be more efficient in what he called the changing mission.
“When you refuse to have a discussion on over half of the budget, that’s like trying to tell the Bengals to win a game without going over the 50 yard line,” he said.
The group had a letter to deliver to Boehner, which contained what they called a statement of principles.
“We believe in a holistic approach to the budget crisis, and in order to protect the middle-class, cuts to the Pentagon need to be at the forefront,” the letter states. “We understand that Pentagon cuts are a controversial issue, however, Pentagon cuts in the sequester do not threaten our national security.”
The letter suggests that some of the money currently being spent on the Defense Department goes to providing services for veterans.
The military accounted for about 52 percent — or $600 billion — of discretionary spending in fiscal year 2011.
In contrast, education, training and social services collectively made up 9 percent of the budget.
The group of four activists weren’t allowed into Boehner’s office, but a young staffer met them outside. He said that the speaker thought everything should be on the table when it came to budget cuts.
It's gone now, but the buzz about it at City Hall and in political circles still is ongoing.
An e-mail circulated this week — presumably among conservative Republicans — referenced the Wikipedia entry for Cincinnati City Hall, which had been changed to include a lie about Congressman Steve Driehaus, a Democrat, implying he was anti-Christian.
Despite lingering signs of a weakened economy, a bipartisan budget deal working through U.S. Congress will not extend emergency benefits for the nation’s long-term unemployed past Dec. 28.
If the emergency benefits are allowed to expire, the cut will hit more than 36,000 Ohioans in December and 128,600 through 2014, according to left-leaning think tank Policy Matters Ohio.
Without the extension, Ohioans can tap into just 26 weeks of state-provided jobless aid. Federally funded emergency benefits give the unemployed another 37 weeks to find work before losing government assistance.
“There are 4.1 million workers who have been unemployed for more than six months, which is well over three times the number of long-term unemployed in 2007, before the Great Recession began,” write Lawrence Mishel and Heidi Shierholz of the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute (EPI).
Supporters claim the benefits boost the economy by allowing the long-term unemployed to continue buying goods and services that effectively support jobs. EPI estimates the benefits would sustain 310,000 nationwide jobs in 2014.
But at $25.2 billion a year, the emergency benefits come at a hefty price tag for conservatives who are trying to rein in federal spending.
EPI claims the “sticker price” overestimates the net cost of the benefits.
“The 310,000 jobs created or saved by the economic activity this spending generates will in turn generate greater federal revenues from the taxes paid on the wages earned by those who otherwise would not have jobs,” write Mishel and Shierholz. “They will also save the government money on safety net spending related to unemployment (for example, Medicaid and food stamps).”
U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, an Ohio Democrat, last week joined 31 other Democratic senators in support of extending the benefits.
“We must do everything we can to support those who are still struggling following the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression,” Brown said in a statement. “These are hardworking Americans — many with children — who have fallen on tough times.”
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters on Thursday the administration “absolutely expects” Congress to extend emergency benefits, but the extension could come after Congress reconvenes from a winter recess in January.
The House of Representatives on Thursday passed a bipartisan budget deal without an extension for the long-term unemployed. The Senate expects to take up the same budget bill sometime this week.
A major effort is underway today to urge Congressman Steve Chabot (R-Westwood) to buck his GOP colleagues and vote against repealing the health-care reform law.
A national group, Catholics United, is placing about 6,000 telephone calls to Catholics who live in Ohio's 1st Congressional District, that contains a recorded message asking them to have Chabot vote “no” on repealing health-care reform. The GOP leadership is expected to bring up the repeal bill, H.R. 2, on Wednesday for a vote by the U.S. House of Representatives.
Since it's an election year, it must be about time for pandering by lawmakers seeking to keep their offices. Cue U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Westwood), who is proposing a bill in response to fears about an influx of publicly subsidized housing for the poor into suburban areas. Chabot wants to impose time limits and work requirements on most people who get Section 8 federal housing vouchers. If approved, the bill would impose a five-year time limit on Section 8 recipients and require those 18 and older to work for at least 20 hours each week. Even if the measure passes the House, it's unlikely to pass the Senate and be signed by President Obama, leaving us to wonder what Chabot's true motive is. Any guesses?
Believe it or not, Cincinnati is Ohio's wealthiest city, sort of, according to a Business Courier study of U.S. Census data. A total of 3.7 percent of households in the Cincinnati-Middletown metropolitan area have income of $200,000 or more. The No. 2 metro area in the state was Columbus, with 3.63 percent of its households earning that much. Of course, the rankings involve entire regions, not just the city itself, and Greater Cincinnati includes such affluent enclaves like Indian Hill, Mason and West Chester Township. (Suck on it, Bexley.)
Crews from Duke Energy are investigating what caused an explosion and fire under a downtown street on Tuesday. The blast happened under the intersection of Fourth and Main streets at about 9 a.m., and both streets were blocked for much of the day. No one was injured in the mishap.
Brad Wenstrup, a podiatrist from Columbia Tusculum who scored an upset victory Tuesday in the GOP primary against U.S. Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-Miami Township), is crediting grassroots organization for his unlikely win. Wenstrup and his surrogates actively campaigned in all corners of the sprawling 2nd Congressional District, which was recently redrawn through redistricting. Although Wenstrup portrayed himself as a moderate when he sought his first political office, in the Cincinnati's mayor race in 2009, his latest campaign positioned him as a darling of the Tea Party movement.
The American Red Cross has established a hotline for Clermont County residents to call if they have an immediate need for housing as a result of last Friday's tornadoes and severe thunderstorms. The number is 513-579-3024.
Despite rumors to the contrary, U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Cleveland) said he won't move to Washington state to run for one of the three open congressional seats there. The longtime progressive congressman lost in Tuesday's Democratic primary against U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur. The two lawmakers recently were redistricted into the same area. Kucinich told reporters Wednesday he will stay on and represent his Cleveland district through the end of his term in January 2013. He would have to resign his current seat if he were to move to Washington state to establish residency for a campaign there.
In news elsewhere, U.S. intelligence officials are monitoring the transfer of millions of dollars to foreign accounts by wealthy Syrians who have ties to President Bashar al-Assad. The officials are trying to determine whether the transfers mean Assad's regime is weakening or if the elites are merely hedging their bets. Assad is under increasing international pressure due to his violent crackdown on anti-government protestors during the past year.
Meanwhile, a Syrian deputy oil minister says he is resigning to join the revolt against the government. Abdo Hussameddin, 58, announced his defection in a video posted on YouTube.
The Obama administration is being criticized for how it treats whistleblowers who reveal instances of misconduct in the public and private sectors. In recent years, the White House has set a record by accusing six government employees, who allegedly leaked classified information to reporters, of violating the Espionage Act, a law dating to 1917. Also, it is alleged to have ignored workers who have risked their careers to expose wrongdoing in the corporate and financial arena, even though there are laws available to protect them.
The House is expected to vote today on a jobs bill that would mark rare agreement between the Obama administration and House Republicans, CNN reports. The proposal is comprised of six measures aimed at removing barriers to small business investment.
There is an old saying that goes, “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics." It’s alternately been credited to writer Mark Twain and British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli.
No matter where it originated, though, the quote applies well to unemployment figures released by the U.S. Labor Department.
Earlier this month the Labor Department reported the nation’s unemployment rate dropped for the fifth consecutive month in January to 8.3 percent, its lowest level in three years. That is good news, but not quite as good as it first appears.
Using that measure, 12.3 million people are unemployed, which is a decline of 0.2 percent from December.
The number of long-term unemployed — those jobless for six months or more — was 5.5 million people, accounting for 42.9 percent of the unemployed.
Critics of how the government calculates the unemployment rate, however, say it’s misleading because it doesn’t count so-called “discouraged workers.” Those are people who are jobless and have looked for work sometime in the past year but aren’t currently looking because of real or perceived poor employment prospects. In other words, they’ve given up.
Federal data shows a disproportionate number of young people, African-Americans, Hispanics and men comprise the discouraged-worker segment.
Including those workers, the unemployment rate was 16.2 percent in January. Some analysts, however, believe that grossly understates the numbers. (The highest the rate got during the Great Depression was 25 percent in 1933.)
Here’s some context. In the modern era (1948-present), the U.S. unemployment rate averaged 5.7 percent — reaching a record high of 10.8 percent in November 1982 and a record low of 2.5 percent in May 1953.
As economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman has noted, “we started 2012 with fewer workers employed than in January 2001 — zero growth after 11 years, even as the population, and therefore the number of jobs we needed, grew steadily.”
Krugman added, “at January’s pace of job creation it would take us until 2019 to return to full employment.”
In a little noticed report, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) stated last week that the rate of unemployment in the United States has exceeded 8 percent since February 2009, making the past three years the longest stretch of high unemployment in this nation since the Great Depression.
Additionally, the CBO — which is the official, objective analyst for the federal government — estimates that the unemployment rate will remain above 8 percent until 2014.
If that’s not depressing enough, consider this: The share of unemployed people who have been looking for work for more than a year — referred to as marginally-attached workers— topped 40 percent in December 2009 and has remained above that level ever since.
The CBO stated the high unemployment rate’s primary cause is weak demand for goods and services as a result of the recession and its aftermath, which results in weak demand for workers.
To produce the largest increases in employment per dollar of budgetary cost, the agency recommended reducing the marginal cost to businesses of adding employees; and targeting people most likely to spend the additional income — generally, people with lower income.
“Policies primarily affecting businesses’ cash flow would have little impact on their marginal incentives to hire or invest and, therefore, would have only small effects on employment per dollar of budgetary cost,” the CBO’s report stated.
“Despite the near-term economic benefits, such actions would add to the already large projected budget deficits that would exist under current policies, either immediately or over time,” it added. “Achieving both short-term stimulus and long-term sustainability would require a combination of policies: changes in taxes and spending that would widen the deficit now but reduce it later in the decade.”
Let’s make that clear — economic stimulus for poor people who would actually spend the money is most effective, and to have an impact the federal deficit needs to increase in the short-term.
Republicans, are you listening?
Local clergy, civic leaders and residents will participate Tuesday in the National Day of Fasting and Prayer for Immigration Reform.
Cincinnati's prayer vigil will be held at the Su Casa Hispanic Center in Carthage.
Israel’s ambassador to the United States will speak at an event in Cincinnati on Saturday night.
Michael Oren will speak about U.S.-Israeli relations and current events affecting both nations. Time will be allowed for questions following Oren’s speech.
Several area politicians are scheduled to attend the event including U.S. Reps. Jean Schmidt (R-Miami Township) and Steve Chabot (R-Westwood); State Rep. Denise Driehaus (D-Price Hill); Hamilton County Commissioner Chris Monzel; and a representative from the office of U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-Terrace Park).