The Labor Department on Friday announced that the October unemployment rate was 9 percent. The news came less than 24 hours after Senate Republicans for a third time voted in lockstep opposition to a jobs bill. Bank of America on Tuesday backed away from a plan to slap customers with a $5-a-month fee on debit cardholders. Sen. Bernie Sanders called that a victory for the American people. Sanders also sounded alarm bells over reports on Monday that even Democrats on a powerful deficit-reduction committee are thinking about cutting Social Security.
The official unemployment rate stood at 9 percent in October, an insignificant 0.1 percent dip. The Labor Department on Friday said employers added 80,000 jobs last month. That's barely enough to keep up with population growth. The jobless rate has not fallen below 9 percent in seven months. Real unemployment is much worse when you count those who have given up looking for jobs or have been forced to work part time. The Labor Department said that on average it took 39 weeks for a displaced worker to find a new job. That's not much of an improvement from the record of 40.5 weeks in September.
Senate Republicans blocked another jobs bill Thursday. No Senate Republican voted for the $60 billion measure to build and repair roads, rail lines and other infrastructure projects. It was the third in a string of Senate setbacks for bills to create jobs. Republicans earlier blocked measures to avoid layoffs of teachers, firefighters, and police officers. "It is a total outrage ... [that] we can`t get one Republican vote to help us rebuild the infrastructure and put people back to work," Sanders said. The measures would have been financed by a tax on the wealthiest Americans. A surtax on millionaires, first advanced by Sanders in the Senate last March, enjoys overwhelming public support. Watch Sanders after the vote on MSNBC.
As a powerful congressional committee worked mostly behind the scenes on a plan to reduce the budget deficit, Sen. Sanders on Thursday sought a meeting of the Senate's Democratic caucus. In an interview afterward with The New York Times, Sanders repeated his message to the Democratic caucus and the committee members: ''The American people are saying, in demonstrations all over the country and in opinion polls, what they want. The wealthiest people, who are doing phenomenally well, and corporations with record-breaking profits must pay their fair share of taxes, more than they are paying now, to help with deficit reduction and job creation.'' Watch the senator's floor speech on Thursday.
Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid
The programs created during the New Deal and Great Society are back on the chopping block as the super committee looks for $1.2 trillion in savings, according to a report on Monday by Politico. "We need to say loud and clear that if the Democratic Party means anything, it means that we are going to protect those vitally important programs," Sanders said. "No cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid."
Big Banks Back Down
Bank of America on Tuesday dropped a plan to charge a $5 a month debit card fee. Other major banks, including Chase and Wells Fargo, said last week that they were canceling similar fees. "Chalk this up as a major victory for the American people," Sanders said. "The American people said 'Thanks but no thanks.' You took on the largest financial institution in America and you beat'em." Watch.
Tar Sands Pipeline
The State Department awarded a sensitive environmental impact study to a firm with business ties to TransCanada, the company seeking a permit for a 1,700-mile oil pipeline from Canada to Texas. Sanders led a group of senators and congressmen in asking President Obama to hold off on a decision until the conflict of interest is investigated. On Tuesday, he asked Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton for any contracts or other documents that describe the relationships between Cardno Entrix, TransCanada, and the State Department with respect to the proposed pipeline. Read more.
Some of the leading progressive economists in America are on an advisory committee Sanders formed to help him craft legislation to reform the Federal Reserve. Sanders posed questions about how to make the Federal Reserve more transparent and accountable. Just last month, an investigation identified 18 Federal Reserve directors with ties to companies that received bailout funds. Sanders, who called for the report, called it "exactly the kind of outrageous behavior by the big banks and Wall Street that is infuriating so many Americans who deserve a Federal Reserve that works for them, not just the CEOs on Wall Street," he wrote in a column on Wednesday for The Huffington Post. LINK
In a Monday speech to the American Public Health Association, Sanders outlined his proposal to end outrageously high prices of prescription drugs. Sanders' bill would eliminate market exclusivity for new drugs and instead offer cash rewards from a "Medical Innovation Prize Fund" for new products that improve health outcomes. By eliminating monopolies and allowing generic competition as soon as a new drug enters the market, prices on drugs would fall dramatically, saving taxpayers, employers and consumers more than $200 billion per year, a savings far greater than the $80 billion prize fund that would be financed through public and private insurers savings. Read more.