NOW   |  January 10, 2014

Congress delays help for jobless

With job numbers far below expectations, far too many Americans are still hurting. For the long-term unemployed, Congress isn’t coming to the rescue any time soon. The panelists discuss the recent Republican agenda on tackling poverty and federal help for the jobless.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> economy added 74,000 jobs in december, a number far below expectations, while at the same time the unemployment rate ticked down to 6.7%. conflicting economic signs that had economists doubting the 74,000 --

>> the number was so low it's not consistent with all of the other economic data that we're getting. all of the surveys have been much stronger and retailing has been good. vehicle sales, it doesn't make sense. i'm not paying attention to it at all.

>> still, far too many americans are hurting and for the long term unemployed, congress isn't coming to the rescue any time soon. republicans and democrats have been unable to agree on how to pay for an extension of long term unemployment benefits . extending the fight into another week, that's right, members of congress over half of whom we learned this week are million millionaires will further delay emergency assistance to an economy where jobs outnumber job seekers 3 to 1. this comes as two parties continue to debate who has the best solutions to tackle the nation's 15% post ert rate. the creation of five economic promise zones that will receive targeted help to develop housing and job training and education and to reduce crime. hours later, paul ryan was the latest 2016 hopeful to layout his anti-poverty vision. -- sorry, he sat down with nbc's brian williams and if you guessed it, it involved spending lesson anti-poverty programs, you are correct.

>> we throw in so much add it that we're measuring our poverty fighting based upon how much money we spend, not on outcomes and how many people we get out of poverty. that's part of the problem with the federal approach.

>> and that came a day after marco rubio 's address contained ideas about wage subsidies that some on the left characterize as not totally crazy. " washington post " says, the key cause of poverty people don't have enough money until republicans are willing to grapple with that fact, they will have no agenda worthy of the name. so that is the problem in the end, jonathan capehart, is that republicans understand poverty exists and poverty exists because people don't have enough money, but republicans oppose anything that would actually give people more money.

>> right.

>> how does this work in terms of anti-poverty, do we take the republicans at their word and take seriously the notion they want to grapple with poverty.

>> you can't take them seriously. they have to back it up with serious ideas and you said senator rubio just now had some ideas or that the left doesn't think are totally crazy, but i think the problem that the republicans have, they are so fixated on this idea that democrats, progressives and liberals are all about redistributing wealth and taking money away from people and giving it to the undeserving when they don't realize that -- i think they get clouded by the phrase income inequality when they really should be focused on the phrase economic insecurity. there are people who were once in the middle class who dropped in -- dropped into being poor because the 2008 financial crisis and until they realize that there are a whole lot of people, whole lot more people who are economically insecure and are depending on that unemployment extension, who are depending on maybe the minimum wage being raised, they are not going to reach those people and their ideas such as they are, rfrnt goi aren't going to go anywhere.

>> the key to undoing this is to create more employment. i want to bring in jonathan harwood. in backing up on this discussion of poverty and unemployment, the new numbers that came out, the $74,000 employment figure for december, did appear to some to be an outliar, are you in the camp of the mark zandy's to say it's not to be believed.

>> i wouldn't say it's not to be believed at all. we've seen revisions going up in jobs numbers over the last couple of years but i do think it's something that will likely influence the debate somewhat on unemployment insurance . i think in the end the chances are that unemployment insurance will not be extended, but i think the chances improve slightly because of that number. i also think it influences the debate on minimum wage and the idea that minimum wage increase, which i think has a better chance than extended unemployment benefits , i think that has got a little juice from those poor numbers.

>> talk about the economic consequences of not extending unemployment insurance . as you say it is unlikely for that to happen, what is the ripple effect on the economy?

>> well, it -- the multiplier effect you get of putting money in people's pockets and if they don't have a lot. it doesn't take there long. that money circulates within the economy. but i think it's difficult for democrats to muster the will to push that over the finish line , given the longer term improvement we've seen in the economy, there's a sense that the economy is not in crisis recovery mode. it is now in growth mode although again as i say, those numbers -- those job creation numbers were something that put a little cold water on that idea.

>> that figure that really did seem to be well below expectations, does that hurt or help the democrat's case for extending unemployment benefits .

>> regardless of what the numbers are, it should help the case. they should feel confident being on offense and figuring out whatever trick they have to do to make it happen, that is my frustration, when you talk to democratic members of congress, on the house side, they feel like there's not really that much options in terms of getting something through. and i think regardless, they need to stay on offense and shame the republicans , but i want to go back to the original point. part of the problem we have, we're taking this piecemeal approach to the conversation. that is part of the republican strategy, democrats and progressives tend to talk about a holistic. when you cut head start , that means that child that would be in head start , the parent now has to figure out, i have to have child care , that cost money. that's time your not out looking for a job. if you cut food stamps , that means people aren't eating and cut the unemployment insurance . we need to take a more holistic approach and republicans are trying to message it to pieces because they've looked at polling data and say, we've got to start talking about poor people rather than understanding that these programs need to actually fit together, which is part of what i thought was powerful about the president's idea, which is let's take a holistic approach and see what's the problem in this community. part of it is crime and part of it is jobs and part of it is transportation, what have you, and figuring out how to put a program together that actually takes a holistic approach rather than the republicans who have absolutely no idea how people live their lives.

>> and it's interesting because what republicans do seem to want to do is block granting, instead of taking a holistic approach , let's turn over blocks of money to the state and let each state take the approach that karen talked about specific to their own population. we do have data that talks about whether or not that works. jared bernstein looked at that and looked at something like snap, which sort of stayed the same overtime. that doesn't rise and fall with the changes in the economy. whereas things like the blue line , that's the blue line -- but other sort of nonblock granted programs actually rise and fall . unemployment insurance , things like tan i have, they shift with the economy. does it have an economic underpinning that makes sense?

>> sort of. the problem is republicans only have one idea and can only have one idea, to reduce the size of government. they are trying to find any way to solve poverty or address poverty while keeping with that. this is one day of doing that, reduces the size of the federal government . their goal is to preserve, not help poor people .

>> as a political matter, jonathan , do republicans need to change their minds or is it talk to get it off the table for 2014 ?

>> they have a whole lot to do to help themselves and to come up with the program. they've ticked off women, young people , gays and lesbians and people of color , economically insecure until they realize they have to have real ideas that speak to all of those constituency, politically, they are nowhere.

>> all right, thanks very much, also jonathan harwood for this discussion. thanks a lot.