Republicans on Thursday for the second week in a row blocked a jobs bill. A federal watchdog agency on Wednesday found that the Federal Reserve was rife with conflicts of interest. The very next day Sen. Bernie Sanders assembled a team of top progressive economists to help reform the Fed. On Tuesday, Sanders chaired a hearing on the recession and seniors. And on Wednesday, Social Security recipients got the good news that they will get a modest cost-of-living raise beginning in January after two years with no change in benefits. Sanders discussed the top issues of the week during his weekly Friday radio and Free Speech TV appearance on The Thom Hartmann Program.
As the demonstrators entered their second month, Senate Republicans blocked a jobs bill. A surtax of 0.5 percent, starting in 2013, on income in excess of $1 million would have helped fund the jobs bill. The bill would have provided $35 billion to state and local governments to prevent layoffs of teachers, police officers and firefighters. Not a single Republican senator voted for the measure that was voted down on Thursday night.
A new investigation by the Government Accountability Office uncovered widespread conflicts of interest involving Federal Reserve Bank directors. "This is exactly the kind of outrageous behavior by the big banks and Wall Street that is infuriating so many Americans," Sanders said. It was a Sanders amendment in the Wall Street reform law that required the investigation by the GAO, the non-partisan research arm of Congress. Read more about the all-star team of economists Sanders assembled to help him reform the Fed.
Occupy Wall Street
Jobs, the widening income gap in America, and the greedy bankers on Wall Street are among issues raised by protesters in the growing and durable Occupy Wall Street movement. Sanders talked about the protesters and their impact on Washington with The Guardian. Watch.
The Recession and Older Americans
In the midst of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, millions of American seniors have seen a decline in their standard of living and are struggling to survive economically. A new report released at a Senate hearing that Sanders chaired on Tuesday showed unemployment among older workers doubled since 2007 while household incomes fell and medical costs rose. Workers aged 55 and older also have a tougher time finding a new job-as Gail Ruggles, 61, of Newark, Vt., testified at the hearing. Watch the NBC Nightly News coverage of the hearing.
A Social Security Raise
After two years without a Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA), there will be a 3.6 percent boost in benefits for 56 million retirees and others beginning in January. Sanders welcomed the modest increase, which was announced on Wednesday, but he argued for changing the way living costs are calculated to more accurately account for seniors' extra expenses for health care and prescription drugs.
Hundreds of defense contractors that defrauded the U.S. military received more than $1 trillion in Pentagon contracts during the past decade, according to a Department of Defense report. A Sanders amendment made the Defense Department own up to its dealings with crooked contractors. "The ugly truth is that virtually all of the major defense contractors in this country for years have been engaged in fraudulent behavior, while receiving hundreds of billions of dollars of taxpayer money. This has got to change," Sanders said. Read more about the report on contracting fraud
The Commodity Futures Trading Commission on Tuesday adopted a rule to limit speculators who have driven up gas and oil prices. Sanders said the watered-down measure "will do little or nothing."