Join the informed writers of The Times' editorial board in lively discussions at our blog, Opinion Northwest.
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March 4, 2014 at 6:11 AM
Opinion Northwest recently asked for readers’ thoughts on Congress’ failure so far to extend federal unemployment insurance. The Feb. 21 blog post followed this editorial calling on lawmakers to help struggling but active job-seekers.
Within days, the post received more than 300 responses from across the country — the map at the top of this post shows locations of responses we received. Many people explained how the temporary assistance had helped them to keep their families housed and their Internet connections available so that they could post their resumes online. A few disagreed with the extension, saying it discourages the long-term unemployed from trying harder to find work. Older workers offered heart-wrenching stories about the difficulty of getting an interview and holding on to a position in today’s economy. During the process of verifying a few different writers’ identities, a few phone numbers were disconnected.
According to The Wall Street Journal, the U.S. Senate is plotting again to pass an extension measure with the help of some Republicans. The Congressional Budget Office outlined the benefits of a short-term fix in this Dec. 3 analysis. “Recipients of the additional benefits would increase their spending on consumer goods and services. That increase in aggregate demand would encourage businesses to boost production and hire more workers than they otherwise would, particularly given the expected slack in the capital and labor markets,” the report concludes.
Here in Washington state, the Employment Security Department reports about 28,000 people exhausted their federal benefits on Dec. 28 after Congress failed to act. Since then, the agency estimates thousands more drop out of the system every week.
What happens to them now?
Scroll down to read some of their stories.
Support a federal extension of unemployment insurance:
I support the extension due to the fact that I lost my job of 29 years in June. My benefits ran out in January. No one will hire me due to my age. I’m 64 years old. Having 26 weeks is not long enough to find a job at my age. It is devastating to our budget with first the loss of a long-term job, and then no unemployment to help with expenses. My job loss was due to my position being eliminated. I would have loved to continue working until I was old enough to retire, but my employer had other plans. We have now had to put our home up for sale, we sold our second vehicle and have cut out anything possible to cut back. I’ve gone from a job that paid over $3,000 a month, to unemployment at less than half of that amount, and now down to zero for my income — it is hard to live on just my husband’s Social Security. I need to work, and have worked since I was a teenager. I need the extra weeks of unemployment to carry me until I can find a job. It is not right to not extend the benefits to those of us who are struggling to find a job. Something needs to be done to help all us who are out of work.
— Sharon Washburn, Yakima (more…)
February 21, 2014 at 6:03 AM
The Seattle Times’ Monday editorial calling on Congress to extend unemployment benefits has received some heavy online traffic. Obviously, this issue hits a nerve for many of you out there who are searching for work or know someone who is. Here is an excerpt from the editorial:
In Washington state, at least 28,000 job-seekers so far have lost a critical financial lifeline. Many have put this money immediately into their local economies. It’s how they have afforded basic necessities such as rent, gas, groceries and utilities…
Without an extension, thousands more throughout Washington will continue to lose emergency federal assistance each week after their regular state benefits run out at 26 weeks.
Workers looking for jobs beyond that period now make up nearly 30 percent of the state’s unemployed population. There is an average of three applicants for every job opening.
There’s good reason for lawmakers to return from recess and re-start this debate. According to a January Quinnipiac University poll, 58 percent of respondents support continuing this financial lifeline for those who’ve exhausted their state benefits.
Share your thoughts with us in the form below. (more…)
January 30, 2014 at 6:07 AM
Good on Washington’s congressional delegates for meeting this week with Kenneth Bae’s family. Here’s a link to the editorial board’s Monday editorial calling on officials in D.C. to keep up their efforts to help free the former Lynnwood resident and American tour operator from a North Korean prison, where he has been locked for nearly 15 months.
Bae’s sister, Terri Chung, his mother, Myunghee Bae and his son, Jonathan Bae, have spent the last several days raising awareness of Bae’s plight in New York City and in the nation’s capitol. On Tuesday, Chung and the elder Bae attended President Obama’s State of the Union address as the guests of U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Everett, and U.S. Rep. Charlie Rangel, D-N.Y.
If you’re just learning about Bae’s case, watch Chung talk about her brother with MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell below:
On Tuesday, the family met for the first time with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. (Scroll down to read their official statement after the talk.) One day later, both Larsen and U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., sent press releases to the media promising they will continue to advocate on the family’s behalf. Murray said she will keep pressuring top U.S. State Department officials “to engage the North Korean government directly and bring Mr. Bae back to the United States.” (more…)
January 9, 2014 at 6:09 AM
The U.S. Senate returned to work this week and shocked some by advancing a temporary extension of the same jobless benefits it allowed to expire on Dec. 28. But as various news outlets such as Politico and The New York Times report, the measure is nowhere close to passage and could face an even tougher battle in the more conservative House.
Americans should pressure their federal elected officials to set aside ideology and pass the bill. Be heartened by the fact that six Republicans helped Democrats break a filibuster to move the issue closer to a vote. One of the legislation’s sponsors is U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., which indicates this doesn’t have to be a partisan issue. It’s about helping the long-term unemployed — in blue, red and purple states — rebound and contribute to their local economies.
National and state jobs reports have certainly shown some improvement since the most recent recession officially began in December 2007, but as the Bureau of Labor Statistics chart below shows, the ratio between job openings and job applicants is still about 3 to 1.
If you doubt the need for this boost of support or think it’s just another bad example of welfare, read this report from The Washington Post. Reporter Brad Plumer offers seven compelling reasons why these benefits are necessary for the country to stay on the course toward a full, stable economic recovery. Long-term unemployment, which some define as lasting 27 weeks or more, is not a result of workers being unproductive. It’s a result of one of the worst recessions in modern U.S. history and technological advances that have made some jobs disappear. (more…)
October 31, 2013 at 6:00 AM
Are we so blinded by our love of sports that we’re willing to be fleeced by the most profitable sports league in the world and its billionaire team owners?
In Virginia, Republican Governor Bob McDonnell, who styles himself as a budget-slashing conservative crusader, took $4 million from taxpayers’ pockets and handed the money to the Washington Redskins, for the team to upgrade a workout facility. Hoping to avoid scrutiny, McDonnell approved the gift while the state legislature was out of session. The Redskins’ owner, Dan Snyder, has a net worth estimated by Forbes at $1 billion. But even billionaires like to receive expensive gifts.
Throughout the report, Easterbrook provides an exhaustive look at how American taxpayers have financed “70 percent of the capital cost of NFL stadiums,” in addition to many ongoing infrastructure and operating costs. Here’s a tidbit about the Seattle Seahawks:
CenturyLink Field, where the Seattle Seahawks play, opened in 2002, with Washington State taxpayers providing $390 million of the $560 million construction cost. The Seahawks, owned by Paul Allen, one of the richest people in the world, pay the state about $1 million annually in rent in return for most of the revenue from ticket sales, concessions, parking, and broadcasting (all told, perhaps $200 million a year).
The Seahawks are a great team, but this is just plain wrong, especially when we’re struggling to fully fund public education and to sustain the cost of essential services such as the Metro transit system and health care.
Here’s the kicker: The National Football League is tax exempt. To the IRS, the NFL has been known as the Nonprofit Football League for decades. NBC News reports it gets away with this by only claiming tax immunity for the main office, which operated in 2011 with about $255 million worth of revenue. The NFL’s main function is to distribute billions generated from licensing and television deals to its 32 for-profit teams, each worth on average $1.2 billion according to this Forbes report. Still doesn’t pass the smell test. How many trade or charitable organizations pay their top official (in this case NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell) nearly $30 million? (more…)
October 29, 2013 at 6:00 AM
Will the umpteenth time be a charm for the House and Senate as lawmakers begin ironing out differences on a half-trillion dollar farm bill? I hope so. While both sides are in agreement on some parts of the five-year program – for example, eliminating $5 billion subsidy paid to farmers and landowners whether they grow crops or not – ugly battles over steep cuts to the food stamps program stalled past talks.
Not to mention the government shutdown. With that madness over, cooler heads ought to prevail on a compromise that sets smart, economical farm and nutrition policy for the next five years. Failure could mean higher milk prices and other food-related consequences outlined in this Seattle Times story. Also at stake is Washington state’s $40 billion agriculture industry, the third largest exporter in the nation and the source of 160,000 local jobs.
Conversations west of the Cascades have centered on the school nutrition program. That’s certainly a big deal to large and urban school districts, but jobs supported by the farm bill should resonate in the Seattle area as well. Nearly 40 percent of Washington jobs are dependent on trade. Agriculture products make up nearly 50 percent of the Port of Seattle’s total exports (totaling $4.3 billion) and support 22,000 port workers, according to a joint press release from Democratic U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell and U.S. Rep. Suzan DelBene. (more…)
October 22, 2013 at 6:50 AM
If voter anger and frustration with Congress are waning after the mindless closure of the federal government, and flirtation with a massive credit debacle, a “60 Minutes” report will renew the head-shaking disgust.
Correspondent Steve Kroft laid out the pure self-serving greed and aggrandizement behind a lucrative device known as Leadership PACs. The rules around campaign financing are mushy enough, and a case before the U.S. Supreme Court seeks to blow the lid off, but Leadership PACs are different, and pure gold.
As the CBS report “Washington’s open secret: Profitable PACs,” explains, members of Congress can use “money solicited from friends and supporters to advance agendas, careers and lifestyles.” The money can be used to wine and dine contributors, put family members on the campaign payroll, and even make loans to political causes at rates that might embarrass a corner cash-advance lender. And, besides, no one is auditing where the money goes.
Kroft confronted Democrats and Republicans who are members in good standing of this Order of the Out-Stretched Palm. They respond with nary a blush.
They were living the good life and endowing loyalty, support and more donations. Sure they could be noble and forego pay during the federal shutdown; access to cash was not a problem.
October 18, 2013 at 6:00 AM
In the vast arena of public education, the part least understood or addressed well is mental health. Think about it. Schools remain vigilant about ensuring students perform well academically. Immunizations are legally required and periodic check-ups for hearing and vision remain even as school systems have cut back in many areas. These things are appropriate because they directly impact students in the classroom.
Mental health also directly impacts students, as I note in my latest column. But a combination of stigma and inattention has left mental health issues on the periphery of education policy discussions. I write in my column about the many ways that is changing.
An example: In the Seattle Public Schools, all the comprehensive high schools and middle schools, plus the Interagency Academy and the World School, have mental health professionals on staff. This is possible because of the Seattle Families and Education levy, a seven-year measure approved by voters four times, most recently in 2011 for $231 million.
A focus on student health that includes the range from emotional/social issues to diagnosed disorders is a key piece of prevention efforts. It is obviously needed. About one in five adolescents has a mental health disorder and 60 percent to 90 percent of them don’t ask for or receive treatment, according to Child Trends. Most mental health needs of adolescents are first identified in schools, although the point I make in my column is that intervention often does not come soon enough.
This conversation ought to continue next Tuesday when Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler holds a public hearing about insurance plans and coverage of mental health services. Participation is vital because testimony from the public hearing will be used to craft rules guiding mental health parity requirements in this state. Families looking for more information about mental health services can find plenty at the Early Assessment Support Alliance website.
October 11, 2013 at 9:23 AM
The GOP can do better. The party will be haunted by the legacy of a pointless shutdown of the federal government, and the looming threat of the first-ever default on U.S. government debt. Republicans need to look at their bench, and mount challenges to that timid, stodgy crew snugly in place on Capitol Hill.
My column makes that point. The shutdown has idled tens of thousands of workers outside of government for lack of access to federal services and regulatory needs. The closure of national parks has devastated tourist-dependent communities. None of this will be forgotten by voters at election time.
The crisis is grounded in the hostility of a small band of Republicans upset about the Affordable Care Act. The political issue is the failure of the larger party and its leaders to run the legislative chamber it controls. A political disaster morphed into an economic tragedy for American families. Shameful.
October 10, 2013 at 6:00 AM
Civil Disagreement is an occasional feature of the Seattle Times editorial board. Here Bruce Ramsey and Lynne K. Varner offer dramatically different takes on the federal budget battle and the government shutdown. This interactive includes a poll about American sentiment toward the political standoff.
Republicans are just taking on a partisan-passed law.
Lynne, all the sewage poured on the Republicans for “shutting down the government” is partisan and unreasonable. Yes, the Republicans are stubborn. But stubbornness takes two. And which side is asking to negotiate? The Republicans. Who is refusing to give a centimeter? Obama and the Senate Democrats. And the voices in the press (around here, anyway) are saying, “oh, you pig-headed Republicans.”
Let’s be fair here. What has happened? The Democrats in the Senate have passed a continuing resolution that funds everything in the government. The Republicans in the House have passed one that funds everything in the government except Obamacare.
Imagine two families were going to have a barbecue and the plan made months before was to have beef, pork, chicken and fish. Imagine one family changed its mind about the fish: They hated the whole idea of fish, but they were OK with the beef, pork and chicken. And if the first family insisted on the original plan and the second family insisted on no fish, and they were at loggerheads and guests were starting to go hungry, what would be the reasonable course of action?
Have the beef, pork and chicken, and save the fish until later. And if they couldn’t agree and the result was no food at all, would it be reasonable to put the entire blame on the family who didn’t want the fish?
It’s true that Obamacare is the law. But so was paid family leave, and the Legislature in Olympia refused to fund it, and it wasn’t funded. Legislatures can do that. They make the law. And Obamacare was a partisan law, passed entirely by Democrats, including members of the House of Representatives who are no longer in office. It squeaked through the U.S. Supreme Court by one vote. It is the law, yes, but this fight means it is still in play.
Basically, the people making ugly faces at Republicans are supporters of Obamacare. They are saying, “We won! Fight’s over.” And it’s not over. It angers them that it isn’t over, and they are having a tantrum about it.
Republicans shut down government, they can open it back up.
Interesting analogy Bruce. To misquote any restaurant chef, “You don’t want the fish, don’t eat the fish!” House Republicans must stop trying to prevent others from choosing the fish, or in the real-life example, medical coverage under the Affordable Care Act. Americans are not pleased. A new Gallup poll shows the GOP’s brand is at a new low. A CNN/ORC International poll spreads the blame among Republicans, Democrats and Obama. Nobody is winning in this ugly battle.
The federal government is closed and the nation’s ability to make good on its debt is imperiled due to a law that passed both houses of Congress and was signed into law by President Barack Obama. Sure, laws are not sacrosanct. They are altered or thrown out regularly by Congress and state Legislatures. But Americans enduring a second week without employment or a paycheck would prefer House Republicans to not abuse the power of the taxpayer purse by re-fighting a battle they lost.
Defenders argue this is just the messy democracy James Madison and other Founding Fathers envisioned with the whole “checks and balances” principle. Please! Someone show me where in the U.S. Constitution, the Federalist Papers or the Bill of Rights it is proposed that the losing side of a legislative debate shut down government until they get their way.
What may have started out as a crafty tactic by the tiny but powerful tea-party wing of the GOP has gone far afield. The Pentagon has turned to a charity to pick up the costs of burying dead American soldiers, this Associated Press story sadly reports. Another Associated Press story warns that the benefits of more than 500,000 military veterans and surviving spouses and children are at risk during the government shutdown.
Bruce, you ask rhetorically which side is willing to negotiate and then answer the Republicans. But it was Obama who invited the House Republican conference to the White House only to have 18 out of the 232 invited attend, reported the Daily Kos website.
Ever mindful of the 2016 presidential election, this New York Times story says GOP leaders may be softening their stance because they are starting to feel isolated from even their strongest supporters — business — and because backers like the Koch brothers are distancing themselves from the shutdown battle. It’s a timely shift in strategy inspired by tanking poll numbers.