Illinois' economy is still contracting and University of Illinois economist J. Fred Giertz is predicting
the state will experience a "painfully slow" recovery period. Despite
the grim outlook, Giertz says that a double-dip recession remains unlikely.
Just when it appeared that the U.S. Congress was prepared to leave
state governments flailing in the wind, a few key Democrats are making
some noise on Capitol Hill about re-upping their support for Medicaid assistance and a successful TANF jobs program. Annie Lowrey has gathered the latest developments at the Washington Independent.
Maybe Congress isn't ignoring the 99ers after all. In an interview with a local New York television station, which was flagged
by the Michigan Messenger, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) hinted that he was
interested in establishing a fifth tier of emergency unemployment
benefits later this year. "There are some people who go beyond the 99
weeks," he said last Friday, "and we're gonna try to do that next."
Of course, no Republicans in the U.S. Senate backed the latest unemployment insurance bill, which was less aggressive than Schumer's latest pet project. That makes the odds of passage long. But it's a development you can bet the newly-radicalized online unemployment community will follow.
Like his Republican colleague Rep. Peter Roskam and other House GOP leaders, U.S. Senate candidate Mark Kirk is using the local airwaves to
advance the flimsy argument that President Obama is largely responsible for the exploding the national
debt. "Bush certainly had deficits," he told Fox Chicago's Mike Flannery on July 12, "but nothing compared to the deficits of today." (You can watch the full interview here.)
For some competing data, check out these graphs compiled by New York Times columnist Paul Krugman. They show that most of the nation's new debt piled up in the
first two quarters of 2009 --mere months into the Obama presidency and
before his policies had "begun to take effect." This famous graph produced by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities is instructive, as well. The D.C.-based thinktank concludes that, were it not for the Bush-era
tax cuts (which Kirk supported), the cost of the wars in Iraq and
Afghanistan (which Kirk supported), and the ongoing economic
slump, "we would not be facing these
huge deficits in the near term."
Thanks to more senseless GOP obstruction,
the U.S. Senate won't be able to take its final vote on a bill
extending the filing deadline for unemployment benefits until late
tonight. But by Thursday, President Obama is expected to sign the extension into law, providing retroactive relief to an estimated 115,000 Illinois residents who have exhausted their jobless insurance since June 2.
those who have been following these developments are well aware, this
package does not provide an additional tier of benefits to Americans
who have been out of work longer than 99 weeks (currently the maximum length of aid). The Illinois Department
of Employment Security says there are currently 36,000 "99ers" in the
Land of Lincoln. Nationally, there are 1.4 million, a population that has grown sixfold since 2007.
For them, lawmakers in Washington are yet to offer much in the way of hope.
Even after the House voted it down last week, GOP Rep. Aaron Schock is continuing to promote his proposal to cut off funding for road signs that identify infrastructure projects funded by the stimulus bill. On Fox News' morning show today, he decried the Obama administration's "self-promotion and propaganda." Watch it:
What's wrong with Schock's proposal? Let's begin with the estimated "waste;" despite Schock's outsized claims, just .02 percent of the $28 billion spent on road projects was devoted to signage, according to ABC News. In Illinois, the total cost was roughly $665,000, a drop in the stimulus bucket. Moreoever, the signs are manufactured ... by American workers ... some of them even from Illinois. In other words, the government is commissioning a product
that wouldn't otherwise be built -- the whole goal of the stimulus. (Fox News co-host Steve Doocy, for what its worth, grossly
misinterpreted the ABC news report cited above in the interview with Schock.) It's also important to remember the role
advertising plays in consumer behavior. "Stimulus works in part through
expectations," writes Matt Yglesias, "so informing people about its existence is important."