Jamelle Bouie

Hello to 236,000 New Jobs

Economic Policy Institute
There are two things you can say about the recovery: It's slow, and it's remarkably durable. Even with the collapse of fiscal stimulus, the shocks of austerity, and a dysfunctional government, we've seen sluggish growth with just enough to bring down unemployment. And at times—such as the winter between 2011 and 2012—there were signs it was speeding up. If today's jobs report is any indication, the recovery is—again—speeding up. The economy created 236,000 jobs last month, the largest gain since November, and the second largest gain in over a year. Unemployment edged down to 7.7 percent from 7.9 percent, and average hourly earnings were up 0.2 percent. It should be said that part of the decline in unemployment owes itself to a smaller workforce—the household survey shows unemployment down by 300,000, but employment up by only 170,000. The overall employment-to-population ration is unchanged at 58.6 percent. Even still, this is a good report. Jobs are up significantly in construction...

Why 2014 Is a Key Year for Democrats

Gage Skidmore / Flickr
Gage Skidmore / Flickr Governor Rick Scott speaking at CPAC FL in Orlando, Florida. 2010 wasn't just a bad year for Democrats in Congress—it saw Republican triumphs on the state-level as well. Twenty-three GOP governors were elected that year, and in 11 states—Iowa, Kansas, Ohio, Oklahoma, Maine, Michigan, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Wisconsin, and Wyoming—Republicans won governorships away from Democrats. Overall, Republicans hold governorships in 30 states, including nine out of the country's 12 largest states. Moreover, ten of those states were carried by Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012, and 14 of those states have at least one Democratic senator. GOP power on the state level has given them an important advantage in national politics (through gerrymandering), as well as space to implement conservative policies, from reproductive rights–state legislatures are pioneers for restrictive abortion bans—to radical tax reform. In Louisiana, for example, Governor Bobby Jindal wants...

Rand Paul's Blinkered Libertarianism

Gage Skidmore / Flickr
Gage Skidmore / Flickr Rand Paul at a book signing at LPAC 2011 in Reno, Nevada. Even if you disagree with Senator Rand Paul's broader politics, there's something inspiring about a politician willing to speak at length—and at some discomfort—for what he believes in. That's even more true when you consider the subject—civil liberties. Paul joins many other civil libertarians in his disdain for targeted killings, the administration's drone policy, and its general approach to due process. Still, for all of Paul's eloquence on this sphere of civil liberties, he's decidedly less interested in the other areas where government uses the threat of force to compel action. Paul's brand of civil libertarianism—the war on drugs as assaults on freedom—doesn't extend to women's bodily autonomy. In his two years as the junior senator from Kentucky, Paul has supported "personhood" legislation (which would outlaw abortion and put major restrictions on several forms of contraception), threatened to...

The Rand Paul Filibuster: Raw & Uncut

Gage Skidmore / Flickr
Gage Skidmore / Flickr What was noteworthy about Rand Paul's filibuster yesterday wasn't that he held up the confirmation of John Brennan to the CIA, but that he spoke . As a procedural move, the filibuster is extremely common, but rarely does anyone take to the floor and prevent the flow of Senate business. Paul's "talking filibuster" was the first in over two years, and at nearly 13 hours, the longest since South Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond's filibuster of the 1957 Civil Rights Rights Act. Unlike Thurmond's filibuster, or the vast majority of filibusters through history, Paul's was for a good cause—to press the Obama administration for more information on drone strikes, to object to the use of drones in the United States, and to spark a conversation about the administration's overall drone policy and use of targeted killings, which has gone unexamined in official Washington. For actual information on the subject, I recommend reading posts from Mother Jones ' Adam Serwer , The...

Obama Didn't Cry Wolf on the Sequester

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza
Official White House Photo by Pete Souza President Barack Obama talks with Chief of Staff Jack Lew, center, and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner as they walk on the Colonnade of the White House, Jan. 10, 2013. Over at the Washington Post , Chris Cillizza chides President Obama for "crying wolf" on sequestration: In the days leading up to the March 1 sequester deadline, dire warnings about its impact were being issued daily from President Obama. Lines at airports would be interminable. First responders would be compromised. Things would be, in a word, bad. Then the sequester hit — and (almost) no one noticed. (Sidebar: It’s kind of like the “snow” storm currently “hitting” D.C.; lots of advance warning, very little immediate impact.) The sky is falling language seemed overblown, and the devastating consequences amounted to the suspension of public tours at the White House. Obama hasn’t helped himself post-sequester — landing in a bit of political hot water with a mistaken claim...

A Tale of Two Filibusters

Gage Skidmore / Flickr
Gage Skidmore / Flickr Today has been an interesting day for filibusters. This morning, the Senate filibustered President Obama's nomination of Caitlin Halligan to the DC Circuit Court of Appeals. Halligan isn't unqualified and she isn't a radical. Her only offense is that Obama wants her for one of the most important courts in the country. As such, Republicans successfully filibuster her nomination, by a vote of 51 to 41. Sixty votes are needed to break a filibuster and move to a final vote. Shortly after this vote went down, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin announced his intent to reintroduce filibuster reform, perhaps frustrated by the Halligan nomination and the general approach of the GOP, which is to filibuster anything that might provide an advantage to President Obama: “We have tried at the beginning of this Senate session to avoid this kind of filibuster confrontation. The last several years we have had over 400 filibusters — a record number of filibusters in the Senate,”...

There is No "Fever" to Break

Google Images
Google Images The New York Times 's reports today that President Obama has invited a dozen GOP senators out to dinner, in an effort to get around Republican leadership and build support for a new agreement on long-term deficit reduction. As Greg Sargent writes for The Washington Post , "It’s not hard to figure out what Obama is telling these Senators: He’s telling them what his actual deficit reduction plan contains — a mix of real entitlement cuts and new revenues." This sounds like something Republicans should already know, but they don't. In an interview with Ezra Klein last week, one unnamed Republican lawmaker was surprised to learn that Obama had floated Social Security adjustments (chained CPI, in particular) as part of a deal for new revenue. Likewise, on Twitter, Republican strategist Mike Murphy had no idea that Obama had offered chained CPI and Medicare cuts in exchange for new revenue. But here's the important thing: When this was pointed out to him, he dismissed the...

Republicans Upset Obama Is Also a Politician

Barack Obama / Flickr
Scout Tufankjian for Obama for America Republican control of the House makes meaningful advancement on President Obama's agenda near-impossible. And so, to deal with this, Obama plans to make the midterm elections a priority. If Democrats can take back the House—or at least, shrink the GOP's margin—they will be in a better position to pursue their policies. Odds are good that it won't succeed—the president's party almost always loses seats in the midterm—but it makes sense. Naturally, Republicans aren't happy about this : In response, McConnell said Obama and Democrats have “expended enormous amounts of energy to advance that goal – rebooting his political organization, provoking manufactured crises with Congress, engineering show votes in the Senate, and traveling around the country to campaign relentlessly against his opponents. That’s why the Sequester went into effect in its current form. That’s why Washington continues to careen needlessly from crisis to crisis. And that’s why we...

The GOP's Bush Dilemma

CNN
CNN Jeb and George Bush sit with an interview with CNN's Candy Crowley. This morning, Washington solved the mystery of Jeb Bush's strange about-face on immigration reform: It was a simple case of political calculation gone wrong. In his new book, Immigration Wars: Forging a New Solution , the former Florida governor comes out against a path to citizenship, a policy he formerly endorsed. "Permanent residency in this context, however, should not lead to citizenship," Bush writes . "It is absolutely vital to the integrity of our immigration system that actions have consequences — in this case, that those who violated the laws can remain but cannot obtain the cherished fruits of citizenship." The key thing to remember is that this was written during the GOP presidential primaries, when support for comprehensive immigration reform—even without a path to citizenship—placed Bush to the left of most Republicans. Now, shell-shocked from their poor showing among Latino voters, Republicans have...

Why "Leadership" Won't Fix Washington's Problems

Intel Photos / Flickr
Intel Photos / Flickr With his latest column , Washington Post 's Eugene Robinson joins the chorus of pundits who insist President Obama force congressional cooperation and find a deal to avert the sequester. Conveniently forgetting this mess is a direct product of Republican intransigence and anti-tax extremism—there is no sequester if there is no debt ceiling crisis—Robinson focuses on Obama's negotiating skills as the reason for this predicament: Obama figured that Republicans would be so horrified at the prospect of deep defense cuts that they would make a deal on his terms, even after being forced to accept a humiliating defeat — and a modest tax increase for the wealthy — in the “fiscal cliff” negotiations two months ago. And since there are no entitlement cuts in the sequester, Robinson argues neither side has an incentive to compromise, since neither side will lose something valuable: Entitlement spending is largely untouched, and defense spending isn’t the sacred cow it once...

Jeb Bush Flip-Flops on Immigration Reform

World Affairs Council of Philadelphia
World Affairs Council of Philadelphia Just six weeks ago, in an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal , former Florida governor Jeb Bush endorsed a path to citizenship as part of a comprehensive immigration reform solution, following the path established by both his brother—George W. Bush—and President Obama. As he wrote at the time, "A practicable system of work-based immigration for both high-skilled and low-skilled immigrants— a system that will include a path to citizenship —will help us meet workforce needs, prevent exportation of jobs to foreign countries and protect against the exploitation of workers." [Emphasis added] At the time—again, just six weeks ago—this was the mainstream position of Republicans working on immigration reform. The framework endorsed by Florida Senator Marco Rubio and other lawmakers included a path to citizenship, with varying penalties for immigrants who came to the United States illegally. Now, with Rubio attacking Obama for holding ideas shared by both...

Virginia, Say Hello to the Sequester

Official U.S. Navy Imagery, Flickr/Jo Naylor
Official U.S. Navy Imagery Tugboats guide the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman to its new berth at Norfolk Naval Shipyard. V irginia didn't just weather the Great Recession; it thrived. Because of its reliance on federal dollars, the state was insulated from the worst of the economic crisis. At no point over the last five years, for instance, did joblessness reach 8 percent. Its peak was 7.4 percent in January 2010, and since then, it's declined to just 5.5 percent—one of the lowest rates in the country. But that was before the sequester. Every state will lose funding as a result of the $85.4 billion in across-the-board spending cuts, but because of its close ties to Washington and the military, Virginia might see the worst of it. Already, Governor Bob McDonnell has warned the commonwealth risks falling into recession. "The automatic sequestration reductions mandated by the Budget Control Act of 2011 are already having a significant adverse effect on the Commonwealth...

Victory for the Violence Against Women Act

Phil Roeder / Flickr
Early this morning, the House of Representatives passed the Senate's version of the Violence Against Women Act, which includes the protections for LGBT victims, immigrants, and Native Americans that House Republicans rejected at the end of last year. As Amanda Marcotte writes , "their ongoing resistance to this popular legislation was starting to make them look like monsters," and so they caved. The bill will soon head to the president's desk, and once signed, the federal government will—again—begin providing funds to better prosecute violence against women, and to assist shelters and services for victims of domestic abuse. It's an unqualified piece of good work by a Congress that has been slow to do "good" and "work" for the last two years. There's also an important political point to take away from this. The House passed the VAWA by a vote of 286 to 138, with all Democrats voting in favor. Only 87 Republicans voted to support the bill. The remaining members of the GOP conference...

More Black Men in College than in Prison

The Root
At this point, it's almost a cliché to declare "There are more black men in jail than in college." I've heard it my entire life—from adults, friends, politicians, and assorted pundits. When he was just a presidential candidate, then-Senator Barack Obama told the NAACP that "We have more work to do when more young black men languish in prison than attend colleges and universities across America." It's a great soundbite. But it isn't true. As Howard University professor Ivory Toldson shows in a story for The Root , the original report on black male college enrollment—the Justice Policy Institute's "Cellblocks or Classrooms," first published in 2001—is far out of date. "If we replicated JPI's analysis," writes Toldson, "we would find a 108.5 percent jump in black male college enrollment from 2001 to 2011. The raw numbers show that enrollment of black males increased from 693,044 in 2001 to 1,445,194 in 2011." By contrast, of the estimated 2 million inmates held in state or federal prison...

Today in Magical Beliefs about Racism

Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum
Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum President Johnson, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks at the signing of the Voting Rights Act on August 6, 1965. I mentioned in my previous post that the Supreme Court is hearing oral arguments on the Voting Rights Act this week. At issue is Section 5 of the law, which requires states and localities with histories of voter disenfranchisement to pre-approve any changes that effect voting with the federal government. The provision effects nine states—mostly in the South—and most areas that submit for pre-clearance are approved. It takes serious problems for the Justice Department to put changes on hold. Despite the wide flexibility of Section 5—and the extent to which some areas are more likely to violate voting rights than others—conservatives have attacked this provision as "onerous," "unfair," and tantamount to reverse discrimination. Conservative members of the Court also followed this line of thinking . Justice Antonin Scalia described...

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