[with contributions from Matthew O'Brien and Darius Tahir]
The recession may be officially over, but state governments continue to struggle. Fewer people working means fewer people paying taxes. That’s forcing states to cut their budgets, which means laying off still more people – and making a bad situation worse. Even as the private sector is adding jobs, the public sector is taking them away. The New York Times today has the latest on this situation, including this quote from Washington state’s official economist: ““We are in the fragile aftermath of the Great Recession, where a return to normalcy seems like a mirage in the desert — the closer we get to it, the further it moves away.”
You know what might help? Giving the states money to stop firing and, ideally, start hiring back the teachers, first-responders, and other public employees they’ve fired already. Call them bureaucrats if you want. Some of them are. Of course, some of those bureaucrats actually make our lives better, too.
President Obama and his Democratic allies have a bill that would address this problem, by increasing aid to the states – and, by the way, paying for itself with higher taxes on the rich. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will bring it up shortly. But Republicans are in lockstep against it, while a handful of conservative Democrats – yes, the usual suspects – are threatening to join them in opposition. It’s not clear whether the opponents have 50 votes, but they don’t need 50 – they need only 40, because in the Senate that’s enough to sustain a filibuster.
Yeah, you knew that part already. But it’s worth remembering: If Republicans in the Senate weren’t determined to prevent virtually any Obama proposal from getting an up-or-down vote, chances are good that a bill would pass.
Rise of the Austerity Class. Ari Berman has the story. (And I wonder whether their influence will recede if Occupy Wall Street grows into a broader movement.)
Medicare has problems: Jane Gross, writing in the New York Times, shows how a fee-for-service system leads to bad medical care. One particularly damning anecdote talks about how Medicare won’t pay for her mother’s nursing home care, but would pay for brain surgery that was not expected to be effective. She writes: “Medicare would pay for “heroic” care for a woman who was dying of old age, not a disease that could be treated.”
Reader comments of the Day: A whole bunch of them, after my item from yesterday defending Rachel Maddow. Several readers suggested that while Maddow may not have been the most deserving member of TNR’s “overrated” list, her show has in fact become predictably one-sided.
Jonathan Chait can be a real downer sometimes. Today is one of those times.