Week in Review

The number of people collecting unemployment neared a quarter-century high. The Standard & Poor's stock index fell farther, faster than at any time since 1933 during the Great Depression. "It's very frightening," Senator Bernie Sanders said at a Senate Budget Committee hearing. One witness, Moody's economist Mark Zandi, warned that unemployment would hit 10 percent without at least a $400-billion stimulus to create jobs and revive the economy.? Sanders is for that.? Too few others in Congress ag

The number of people collecting unemployment neared a quarter-century high. The Standard & Poor's stock index fell farther, faster than at any time since 1933 during the Great Depression. "It's very frightening," Senator Bernie Sanders said at a Senate Budget Committee hearing. One witness, Moody's economist Mark Zandi, warned that unemployment would hit 10 percent without at least a $400-billion stimulus to create jobs and revive the economy. Sanders is for that. Too few others in Congress agree, however, and lawmakers left Capitol Hill without acting. The Senate and House may return in December, but the focus then would be on the struggling American auto industry. Many have pinned their hopes for a broader turnaround on an important week in late January. President-elect Obama is to be sworn in on January 20. Can we afford to wait? "I'm worried," Sanders said Friday on Vermont Public Radio's "Vermont Edition."

The Interregnum "How much should we worry about what looks like two months of policy drift?" asked Paul Krugman, the Nobel Prize-winning economist, in a New York Times column published Friday. "At minimum, the next two months will inflict serious pain on hundreds of thousands of Americans, who will lose their jobs, their homes, or both," he wrote. "Is economic policy completely paralyzed between now and Jan. 20? No, not completely….but nothing is happening on the policy front that is remotely commensurate with the scale of the economic crisis. And it's scary to think how much more can go wrong before Inauguration Day." To read the complete column, click here.

Unemployment The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment insurance surged to the highest levels in 16 years, and the number of people continuing to collect benefits neared a 26-year high, the government said Thursday. The U.S. Department of Labor reported that initial filings for state jobless benefits increased by 27,000 to 542,000 for the week ending Nov. 15. With no end in sight to bad economic news, the one thing Congress did do last week was pass legislation to ensure that millions of laid-off workers won't see their unemployment checks disappear as the year-end holidays approach. Sanders voted for it. For unemployed Vermonters, it means seven more weeks of benefits. The House-passed measure flew out of the Senate and President Bush, in an about face, signed the bill on Friday.

Rebuild America Sanders has pressed for an economic recovery package that would include job-creating programs to rebuild roads and bridges, water systems, schools. He also thinks that switching away from oil and other fossil fuels would create millions of good-paying jobs in the process. "Without fiscal stimulus, the recession will last throughout 2009 and much of 2010. It's not in the league of the Great Depression, but it's certainly the most severe we've seen since that dark time," Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Economy.com, told Senate Budget Committee members. If no stimulus legislation is passed, unemployment could reach nearly 10 percent by the end of 2010. To watch Sanders and Zandi at the hearing, click here.

Detroit Bailout After a public relations debacle in which the chief of the Big Three carmakers flew to Washington aboard private luxury jets to make their case for a rescue, congressional leaders sent the bosses of Ford, General Motors and Chrysler back to Detroit to come up with a plan by December 2, which they would present to the House and Senate banking committees. They will have to prove that, in the long run, they are "viable" companies that can repay any loans. They also must demonstrate that they won't need to come back and ask for more money. If the plans are approved, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said they are willing to reconvene the week of Dec. 8 to take up a bailout.

Wall Street Bailout
Sanders introduced legislation to stop the release of a $350-billion second round of the Wall Street bailout. Sanders, who voted against the $700-billion package Congress approved in October, said he has serious concerns about how the Bush administration and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson are spending the bailout money that was already released. "The administration's plans as to how the money should be spent appear to be changing on a daily basis. Meanwhile, they are operating in secrecy, ignoring the oversight provisions of the legislation and, with dubious legality, changing long-established rules by providing huge tax breaks for the banking industry above and beyond the bailout," Sanders said. "I also strongly object to any of this bailout money being used for executive bonuses, dividends, mergers or acquisitions," Sanders added. To read his letter to other senators, click here.

Global Warming The Senate will take up sweeping global warming bills in January, a sign that President-elect Obama's election could reverse years of foot dragging on climate change, key members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee announced. "It's not only that you have a president who understands the severity of the problems, but he is willing to be aggressive in addressing it from a global warming perspective," Sanders told a Capitol Hill press conference on Thursday. Watch it here.

Inauguration With a limited number of tickets to President-elect Barack Obama's presidential inauguration in January, Vermont congressmen have been flooded with ticket requests to see the ceremony. The offices of Senators Sanders and Patrick Leahy and Representative Peter Welch have also been bombarded with requests. For more information, click here.