Posts Tagged Unemployment benefits extension

Congress Caps A Completely Futile Year

In the close of the year for the most ineffective Congress in history managed to cloud issues and merge their We The Few ideology into basic legislation to assist the poor, the needy and the middle class.   So, the Senate has gone home for a long, undeserved break.

Once again, nothing has been resolved.  So that the Senate can enjoy a nice holiday, We The People were given two months of relief with the very real prospect that household income will lower and unemployment benefits will disappear on March 1st.  However, the revision of the House bill must be approved by the House and Majority Leader Boehner announced on Sunday, that the Senate extension bill would not be approved.

Rather than pass stand-alone legislation that would extend the payroll tax reduction through 2012 and extend unemployment benefits for 160 million Americans, the Senate agreed to a short-term fix that appears nothing more than a means for Senators to return home through the end of the year.

Congress did manage to pass a $915 billion spending program that will keep the government operating through September 30th.  President Obama had strongly urged Congress to put politics aside and protect the middle class and the unemployed through 2012.  The Senate passage of the band-aid fix provided by the temporary payroll extension and the temporary unemployment extension, allowed the Senate to promptly skip town until late January.
The US Capitol
Creative Commons License photo credit: bclinesmith

The House was due to vote on the temporary bills.  Previously, Majority Leader, John Boehner, forcefully encouraged the Senate to  pass the original version of the bill that had passed the House.  The House’s  bill  contained an attachment to the Keystone XL pipeline, which The President has put on the calendar in 2013.    The Keystone XL pipeline, will run from Canada to Texas and has been opposed by environmentalists and put on hold by Obama until proper environmental evaluations are compiled.

The State Department has tabled consideration for the Pipeline first proposed by Republicans in 2008.  The President has agreed to re-visit the project in 2013.  As Republicans presidential candidates have made clear, the nation’s environmental concerns are secondary to the interests of We The Few.

This temporary legislation leaves millions of Americans and businesses to guess what will happen in the 45 days before the temporary extensions expire.  

Congress leaves town with a stunning  9% approval rating that is trending down.  When We The People understand the full repercussions of this last-minute legislation, the approval rating should decline further.  In their efforts to get home for the holidays, Congress passed self-serving legislation without a constructive foundation.

When Congressmen return to their districts, Democrats and Republicans alike should press their representatives to swarm the ir home bases with calls, appearances and demand action and cooperation.

The serious question is why these predictable confrontations must be played out in full view, pitting Americans against each other.  With the crisis in Europe, the U.S. needs to make a concerted effort to reduce the deficit and get Americans back to work.  One hand washes the other. Congress recognizes this hard reality but does not have the political will to stimulate growth and make tough choices on spending.

Grover Norquist may be viewed as the most powerful man in the country but his lobbyist friends are not far behind.  Pandering to special interests is viewed as the only way to survive in Washington.  Faced with bitter reality on Main Street, the divide between Washington, their special interests and We The People appears irreparable.

Boehner’s response to the sixty day bill was to threaten that the Keystone pipeline would be part of the more permanent solution.  This raises questions about Republican support for this project.  The plan is that Gulf Coast Refineries will refine inexpensive tar sand Canadian crude into diesel fuel and other products which will be exported to Europe and Latin America.  The majority of the fuel will be exported and not used by Americans.

The Keystone Pipeline has been hailed by Republicans as a jobs bill.  Yet,the State Department released a report indicating that total employment would amount to about 3,500 – 4,000 new jobs.

Is this the Republican solution to the jobs crisis?  Is this the reason that the tax rate for billionaires and millionaires stays at historic lows?   Are these the “job creator” programs?  Are they serious?

Let’s call the Keystone XL pipeline what it is;  more pandering to a large and powerful lobby.  Republicans will use their leverage against We The Few to press for accelerated approval of this program.  Consideration for the pipeline must be included in negotiations with the two temporary programs.

This legislation has no basis.  It creates more questions than it answers.  Businesses will hesitate adding employees until long-term solutions are on the table.  Why do all significant all Congressional legislative actions not address the purpose of the legislation. Why are real jobs plans shaped with a rider that Republicans know are doomed to be vetoed?  Why does the 2011 Congress not engage in civil debates about stand-alone that would benefit We The People instead of We The Few?

How do bills that will improve the economy and offer business a real-time incentive to hire, carry legislative attachments that do none of the above?

We know the answer is special interest groups.  How does a member of Congress look constituents in the eye and say they are representing We The People when their agendas are personal  gain.

Congress has left town leaving Americans to wonder what bombshell is next. Why, when the majority of Americans need help, are Republicans working against the working man?  Even Republican John McCain questioned the Senate and House as to why a 1200 page bill, that not one Senator had read, was passed.  We really need to think about that.

This is a summary from the U.S. State Department describing the effects of the Keystone XL pipeline:

  1. Keystone XL is a pipeline for oil export.
  2. Gulf Coast refineries will receive relatively inexpensive Canadian tar sand oil and prepare it for export.
  3. Most of the finished product will not be used in the U.S.
  4. U.S. demand for oil is significantly lower than it was in 2007.
  5. The U.S. Energy Department states that implementing energy efficiency will decrease demand and reliance upon Middle East oil.
  6. Currently, Midwest farmers use refined Canadian tar sand oil.
  7. The results of Keystone will actually increase the price of end products for this market because the current supply to the Midwest will be diverted.
  8. Midwest farmers can expect an increase of $0.20 per gallon.  Increased demand would increase Canadian annual revenues from $2 billion in 2009 $3.9 billion in 2013.
  9. Overall, midwest farmers spent $ 12.4 billion on fuel in 2009.  Projections indicate the cost of the same quantities of fuel will reach $15 billion by 2013.
  10. In its 2008 application for TransCanada’s Presidential Permit, the highest number of workers needed for constructing the pipeline would be 4,000 jobs.
  11. When TransCanada installed its pipeline to South Dakota, only 11% of the labor force was from South Dakota.
  12. TransCanada predicted that the existing Keystone I pipeline to the midwest would spill once every 7 years.
  13. In Fact, Keystone I has had 12 spills this year.
  14. When excavating for repairs, TransCanada said that defective steel had been used.
  15. Environmentalists strongly oppose the pipeline.
  16. Fear of more ruptures which would spoil the region’s water supply for 2 million people, eliminate wildlife and damage the environment along the scale of the BP oil spill makes a complete analysis of the new pipeline absolutely necessary.

Well aware of these factors, Republicans want to accelerate the construction of the pipeline. Below are summaries of studies performed by dissenting parties.

The Rockefeller Foundation reported that emissions caused by the pipeline consist of alarmingly high greenhouse gas (GHG).

The State Department Environmental Impact Statement  does not analyze the lifetime of these emissions.

No studies regarding the effects on wildlife or carbon emissions at the refinery sites have been presented.

As it stands now, the pipeline would cut a swath through America’s heartland and impact the Missouri and Niobrara Rivers.

In summary, the Keystone XL pipeline would provide the Gold Coast Refineries the ability to increase exports to Europe and South America.  The pipeline will drive fuel prices in the midwest and in other areas.  There are serious environmental questions about this project.  There simply is not enough data to move ahead at and accelerated pace.  There are valid risks and consequences with this Republican initiative that cannot really be deemed a job creator.

So the question is, why are Republicans pushing so hard for the pipeline?   Why are Republicans holding We the People hostage over a pipeline?  Once again, the lobbyists and big oil are a higher Republican priority than the environment and the impact this project will have on Americans.  If this is the Republican vision for a jobs program, they are more disconnected than ever.

Let’s be clear. The Keystone XL project will benefit oil companies, not We The People.  The only way to protect ourselves is at the polls.  If you want progress and want to end these bitter last-minute deals, the 2012 elections offer We The People a chance to rid ourselves of Tea Party members, Norquist pledge signers and to create a functional Congress that will work for us.

The time to act is now; not next year.  If we fail, life for We The People will continue to deteriorate.  We will fight the wars created by We The Few. We will have no consumer protection agency. Our health care will diminish.  The job market will not improve.  The consequences of not opposing We The Few legislation will further deteriorate our new caste system.  And, We The People will wonder how all this happened.

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