Today's News and Commentary – October 17
Late Wednesday night, Congress passed a bipartisan bill to re-open the government after a 16-day shutdown, and raise the debt ceiling after coming within one day of default. The government will be funded through January 15th, and the debt limit will last through February 7th. The bill does not include major changes to Obamacare, which Republicans had pushed for as their original goal of the shutdown. The New York Times reports that “Congressional Republicans conceded defeat,” and the Washington Post quotes Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) as saying “we fought the good fight; we just didn’t win.” Yet the bill only funds the government at sequester levels, which already represents $1 trillion in across-the-board spending cuts. Jared Bernstein, an economist, is tracking the effects of the sequester here. The bill does include backpay for federal employees (an issue we have previously covered), and federal employees will return to work today. The Hill has more details on the contents of the bill. Politico reports that the House and Senate agreed to appoint budget negotiators by Dec. 13, a provision that Republicans objected to twenty-one times earlier this year.
In immigration news, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie announced his support for allowing undocumented immigrants to pay in-state tuition at New Jersey colleges and universities. The New York Times reports this as a “big reversal for Mr. Christie, who used to take the standard Republican” strongly opposing in-state tuition, even for undocumented immigrants who were brought here as children.
In international labor news, the New York Times reports that factories in Haiti are denying garment workers nearly one-third of their wages. The United States helped build one of the offending factories, Caracol Industrial Park, as the part of post-earthquake reconstruction. This factory makes goods for Gap, Target and Wal-Mart. The most recent report by the Worker Rights Consortium follows a report from last April by a group affiliated with International Labor Organization with similar findings.
The Wall Street Journal reports that the long-term unemployment rate (that is, people without work for more than 12 months) among the world’s richer countries is at its highest rate since 2008, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). While the overall unemployment rate for the 34 OECD member nations has stabilized, the long-term unemployed rate “has continued to climb.” This is in part due to the Euro-zone fiscal and banking crises, which hit developed European countries—such as Greece, Portugal, and Italy—the hardest.
The Los Angeles Times reports that “Steve Dayan defeated veteran labor chief Leo Reed” in the Teamsters Local 399 election. Teamsters Local 399 represents 4,500 people in Hollywood’s entertain industry, including casting directors, animal handles, and transportation coordinators. This was an unexpected upset in a closely watched race.
While many cities are cutting back on essential services due to the continuing bad economic, Richmond, Virginia, is launching a series of new programs to combat poverty. The New York Times reports that Richmond’s Mayor Dwight C. Jones is throwing his political capital behind this major initiative. Richmond is one of the country’s poorest urban areas, with a poverty rate of 26.3%. The mayor is considering “pairing every at-risk child ages 11 to 15 with an adult mentor;” creating mixed-income housing units, investing in “intensive manufacturing training program[s] . . . starting a farm-to-school program to promote adequate nutrition; and establishing an assistance program to help pay water and wastewater bills for low-income households.”