Category Archives: Austerity

The right to refuse unsafe work is more important than ever — but expect a fight

Photo: USDA

By Kathy Wilkes. Published 6-7-2020 by Huck/Konopacki Cartoons

The COVID-19 pandemic is taking a heavy toll on workers. Reports of job hazards grow increasingly dire as several governors and President Trump push past CDC guidelines to “reopen” the economy while forecasts predict soaring infections and deaths.

Some states at the direction of the Labor Department threaten termination of unemployment benefits for workers fearing return to dangerous jobs. A disturbing June 5 New York Times’ report reveals how far those machinations have gone. The result: workers fired without pay or benefits or trapped in a deadly vice between poverty and disease. Continue reading

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‘Should Be Bigger News’: Analysis Finds Nearly One Third of Owed Unemployment Benefits Have Not Been Paid

Bloomberg found a $67 billion gap between the sum of benefits paid out by the Treasury Department and the amount that is owed to jobless Americans.

By Jake Johnson, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 6-3-2020

Volunteers at the North Texas Food Bank. Photo: North Texas Food Bank/Twitter

A Bloomberg analysis released Tuesday estimates that nearly a third of the unemployment benefits owed to jobless Americans have not yet been paid out, a finding critics described as a “scandal” deserving of more media attention as millions of people struggle to afford basic expenses due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The Treasury disbursed $146 billion in unemployment benefits in the three months through May,” Bloomberg reported. “But even that historic figure falls short of a total bill that should have reached about $214 billion for the period, according to Bloomberg calculations based on weekly unemployment filings and the average size of those claims.” Continue reading

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GOP ‘Plot to Gut Social Security Behind Closed Doors’ Gains Steam in Senate Covid-19 Talks

“With seniors most at risk from Covid-19, we need to be increasing Social Security’s modest benefits, not creating secret commissions to cut them.”

By Jake Johnson, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 5-23-2020

Photo: Tony Alter/flickr/CC

A proposal by Sen. Mitt Romney to establish congressional committees with the specific goal of crafting legislative “solutions” for America’s federal trust fund programs has reportedly resurfaced in GOP talks over the next Covid-19 stimulus package, sparking alarm among progressive advocates who warn the Utah Republican’s bill is nothing but a stealth attack on Social Security and Medicare.

Politico‘s Burgess Everett reported Wednesday that Romney’s TRUST Act, first introduced last October with the backing of a bipartisan group of senators, “is getting a positive reception from Senate Republicans” in coronavirus relief discussions, which are still in their early stages. The legislation, Everett noted, “could become part of the mix” for the next Covid-19 stimulus as Republicans once again claim to be concerned about the growing budget deficit. Continue reading

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Senate Bill Would Guarantee Paychecks to Laid-Off Workers for Rest of 2020 ‘To Avoid Another Great Depression’

“We cannot continue to allow tens of millions of Americans to lose their jobs, income, and health insurance during this horrific pandemic,” said Sen. Bernie Sanders, one of the bill’s lead sponsors.

By Jake Johnson, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 5-21-2020

Unemployed men queued outside a depression soup kitchen opened in Chicago by Al Capone. Photo: Public domain

Sens. Bernie Sanders, Mark Warner, Doug Jones, and Richard Blumenthal on Thursday unveiled legislation aimed at stemming coronavirus-induced mass layoffs in the United States by guaranteeing paychecks and healthcare benefits to laid-off and furloughed workers for the rest of 2020.

The Paycheck Security Act—introduced with support from senators across the ideological spectrum of the Democratic caucus, and with the notable backing of Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.)—would massively expand the existing Employee Retention Tax Credit to cover wages, salaries, and benefits for laid-off or furloughed workers up to $90,000 per year. Continue reading

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What the Trump budget says about the administration’s health priorities

President Donald Trump’s budget request for fiscal year 2021. AP photo / J. Scott Applewhite

Simon F. Haeder, Pennsylvania State University

The Trump administration recently released its budget blueprint for the 2021 fiscal year, the first steps in the complex budgetary process.

The final budget will reflect the input of Congress, including the Democratic House of Representatives, and will look significantly different.

However, budget drafts by presidential administrations are not meaningless pages of paper. They are important policy documents highlighting goals, priorities and visions for the future of the country. Continue reading

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‘We’re Just Getting Started,’ Says Union Leader, as Worker Strike Activity Hits 35-Year High Under Trump

“Trump’s economy is not a workers’ economy, and workers know solidarity is the best way to fight back.”

By Jessica Corbett, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 2-11-2020

Thousands of members and allies of the Chicago Teachers Union demonstrated in the city’s Union Park during a strike in October 2019. (Photo: CTU/Twitter)

In yet another rebuke to President Donald Trump’s claims that the U.S. economy is “roaring” and his “relentlessly pro-worker” agenda is serving the American public, a report published Tuesday by a progressive think tank revealed that the “number of striking workers surged in 2018 and 2019” after decades of decline.

The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) report, entitled Continued Surge in Strike Activity Signals Worker Dissatisfaction With Wage Growth, noted that the spike marked “a 35-year high for the number of workers involved in a major work stoppage over a two-year period.” Continue reading

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Amid Years of Funding Cuts to Public Health, First US Case of China’s Coronavirus Detected

Public health advocates say state, local, and federal agencies are underprepared to cope with the spread of a new infectious disease.

By Julia Conley, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 1-21-2020

Coronavirus. Photo: CDC

Officials in Washington State reported Tuesday that a resident was diagnosed with the coronavirus which was first detected in Wuhan, China last month, leading federal public health agencies which have suffered billions of dollars in cuts in recent years to issue warnings and post information about the illness.

“This is an evolving situation and again, we do expect additional cases in the United States and globally,” Nancy Messonnier of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told the Washington Post. Continue reading

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‘A National Disgrace’: Trump Proposes Social Security Change That Could End Disability Benefits for Hundreds of Thousands

“Donald Trump and his advisers know that this will kill people, and they do not care. Every current and future Social Security beneficiary must band together to defeat this horrific proposal, or else all of our earned benefits will be next.”

By Jake Johnson, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 12-16-2019

Graphic: Government Accountability Office

Activists are working to raise public awareness and outrage over a little-noticed Trump administration proposal that could strip life-saving disability benefits from hundreds of thousands of people by further complicating the way the Social Security Administration determines who is eligible for payments.

The proposed rule change was first published in the Federal Register last month but has received scarce attention in the national media. Last week, the Social Security Administration extended the public comment period on the proposal until January 31, 2020. Continue reading

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Report Details How Social Security Has Become Rigged for the Wealthy While Leaving Behind Those It Was Designed to Help

“The program’s become less progressive,” said Jim Roosevelt, a former Social Security Administration official and grandson of FDR.

By Jake Johnson, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 12-3-2019

The benefits of Social Security, a program designed to help vulnerable and low-income people, have since the 1980s become increasingly skewed toward the wealthy due to demographic shifts and soaring inequality, according to a new report.

Proponents of Social Security expansion, responding to the report (pdf) by Boston College’s Center for Retirement Research, said the New Deal-era program’s increasing regressivity was not inevitable, but the result of lawmakers’ refusal to enact basic progressive reforms such as lifting the cap on income subject to the Social Security payroll tax. Continue reading

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Senate Democrats Join GOP to Back ‘Automatic Austerity’ Bill That Would Gut Social Programs, Hamstring Bold Policies

“One priority of a Sanders or Warren White House absolutely must be politically crushing the deficit scolds within the Democratic Party.”

By Jake Johnson, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 11-14-2019

Sheldon Whitehouse. Screenshot: MSNBC

A handful of Senate Democrats joined forces with Republicans last week to advance sweeping budget legislation that would establish an “automatic deficit-reduction process” that could trigger trillions of dollars in cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, and other social programs—and potentially hobble the agenda of the next president.

The Bipartisan Congressional Budget Reform Act (S.2765), authored by Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), passed out of the Senate Budget Committee on November 6. The legislation is co-sponsored by five members of the Senate Democratic caucus: Whitehouse, Mark Warner (Va.), Tim Kaine (Va.), Chris Coons (Del.), and Angus King (I-Maine). Continue reading

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