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‘A portrait of disaster’: Experts warn 6.6 million new jobless claims portend an unparalleled crisis

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The U.S. Department of Labor announced Thursday that 6.6 million Americans filed jobless claims last week, a staggering and record-breaking surge in unemployment that comes as the coronavirus outbreak has completely shuttered large swaths of the economy and sparked mass layoffs nationwide.

“I have spent the last twenty years studying the labor market and have never seen anything like it.”
—Heidi Shierholtz, Economic Policy Institute

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The new figures bring the total number of unemployment claims for the month of March to 10.4 million, surpassing the number of jobs lost during the entirety of the Great Recession of 2007-2009. The 6.6 million new unemployment claims are more than double the previous record of 3.28 million claims set just last week.

“The labor market is contracting at the rate of one Great Recession per 10 days,” tweeted The Atlantic‘s Derek Thompson.

Heidi Shierholtz of the Economic Policy Institute said that in her two decades of studying the labor market, she has “never seen anything like” the spike in unemployment in that the U.S. has experienced over the last two weeks.

“This chart is a portrait of disaster,” Shierholz tweeted, pointing to a Labor Department graphic depicting the steep rise in jobless claims. “Unemployment insurance claims for the last two weeks are mind-blowing.”

Shierholz said the unparalleled rise in jobless claims cries out for an immediate and sweeping response from Congress, which is officially on recess until April 20.

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“Given the extraordinary deterioration of the labor market in a matter of weeks,” said Shierholz, “federal policymakers will absolutely need to come back and provide more desperately needed relief, and more support for the recovery once the lockdown is over.”

“We need an unprecedented economic stimulus. We need a Green New Deal.”
—Sunrise Movement

The multi-trillion-dollar stimulus package signed into law by President Donald Trump last Friday includes a one-time $1,200 direct cash payment to millions of Americans and a $600 increase in unemployment benefits for a period of four months, but those benefits have not yet reached the bank accounts of those who are eligible.

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Around 70 million eligible Americans may not see stimulus payments for months because they don’t have direct deposit information on file with the Internal Revenue Service, according to the Brookings Institution.

“That’s now 10 million people who have no income and no [health] insurance at the beginning of a pandemic,” progressive radio host Benjamin Dixon tweeted after Thursday’s numbers came in. “Any politician NOT calling for a minimum of $2000/month [universal basic income] and nationalized healthcare will be complicit with the total collapse of our system.”

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The youth-led Sunrise Movement said the rapid economic meltdown makes the case for a Green New Deal.

“We need an unprecedented economic stimulus,” the group tweeted. “We need a Green New Deal.”

Economists have warned in recent days that unemployment is likely to continue soaring in the coming weeks before the crisis begins to subside.

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Miguel Faria-e-Castro, an economist with the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, wrote in an analysis last week that 47 million workers could lose their jobs by the end of June, which would bring the unemployment rate to 32.1%. The unemployment rate at the peak of the Great Depression was 25%.

“These are very large numbers by historical standards,” wrote Faria-e-Castro, “but this is a rather unique shock that is unlike any other experienced by the U.S. economy in the last 100 years.”

Economist Jared Bernstein, a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, tweeted Thursday that “there’s a debate in Congress…about whether to quickly add more economic stimulus or wait and see what happens with what we’ve done so far.”

“I’m congenitally a careful, wait-and-see type, BUT NOT NOW!” Bernstein said.

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“What should go in a phase 4 stimulus?” Bernstein continued. “Nutritional support (very helpful in last recession), state fiscal support (states facing huge demands amidst tanking revenues), more help to households through round 2 checks, [and increased unemployment insurance] beyond end of July.”

Quoting a famous scene from the movie “Jaws,” Bernstein added: “We’re gonna need a bigger boat.”


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Trump is trying to twist the census to fit his ‘politics of greed and fear’: Black lawmakers

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On Monday, writing for The Washington Post, Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA) and former Georgia House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams condemned President Donald Trump's latest push to rewrite the rules of the census for partisan and racial reasons.

"To tell the story of America, we must see who lives within her borders," wrote Bass and Abrams. "The census is the constitutionally protected tool wielded every 10 years to take stock, assess the accuracy of our national narrative, and ensure a fair and equitable distribution of political power and money to the places where people live. The mandatory decennial count is laid out in the founding documents of our nation. Over time, we have bettered its process from its original horrific approach. For nearly a century, for every five black Americans, only three were included in the count — the despicable Three-Fifths Compromise built on the assumption that each Black person was subhuman, three-fifths of one. After the Civil War, the 14th Amendment eliminated this practice and, now, the Constitution guarantees an enumeration of 'whole' persons."

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GOP strategist rues ‘big mistake’ — that led to his family’s COVID-19 infections

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The tweet Richard Costigan posted July 23 was bluntly honest: “We tried our best to limit exposure to #COVID19 but we slipped up somewhere.”

Costigan tweeted while waiting anxiously in the parking lot of a hospital outside Sacramento. The veteran Republican political consultant had just dropped his wife, Gloria, off at the emergency room. He wasn’t allowed to go in with her.

🙏 needed 🚨! My wife is in the #ER as she can’t catch her breath. She has been having severe coughing fits that won’t stop. We tried our best to limit exposure to #COVID19 but we slipped up somewhere. I am coughing as well. This🦠 is nasty. I am waiting in parking lot.

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“Forgiveness isn’t given lightly”: El Pasoans balance healing with anger a year after Walmart massacre

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It’s been about a year since the lyrics to the Spanish-language ballad rang out in the parking lot of a shopping complex in east-central El Paso. The song, Amor Eterno, was penned by borderland hero Juan Gabriel and speaks about a family’s tragic loss. It was played several times here in the aftermath of one of the deadliest mass shootings in the state’s history.

On Monday, the lyrics resonated once again as a duo sang its message of agony and remembrance just before 23 white doves were released in honor of the victims.

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