rabble blogs are the personal pages of some of Canada's most insightful progressive activists and commentators. All opinions belong to the writer; however, writers are expected to adhere to our guidelines. We welcome new bloggers -- contact us for details.

Weekly Audit: Senate Republicans nix jobs bill

Please chip in to support more articles like this. Support rabble.ca in its summer fundraiser today for as little as $1 per month!

It looks as if election-year strategies are trumping any actual problem-solving efforts from Republican lawmakers. In the midst of one of the worst unemployment crises in U.S. history, Senate Republicans killed a jobs bill last Thursday by a 56-40 vote.

As congress carries on with the seemingly impossible task of helping the unemployed while keeping Republicans happy,  over 15,000 progressives and 1,300 organizations will convene in Detroit this week for the U. S. Social Forum (USSF) to explore alternative solutions to the jobs crisis. Editor’s note: Stay tuned for USSF coverage from Media Consortium members throughout the week in The Audit, The Pulse, The Diaspora and The Mulch.

Killed bill

Democrats trimmed over $20 billion in unemployment benefit extensions from the bill to appeal to Senate Republicans and Blue Dog Democrats. The efforts were to no avail, according to The Michigan Messenger. In addition to extending emergency unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed, the Senate bill would have increased Medicaid funding and prevented a 21% pay cut for Medicare doctors.

The defeat came less than a week after President Barack Obama issued a plea to Congress to pass a jobs bill, citing the nearly double-digit national unemployment rate and the slow rate of recovery.

GOP immobile

Despite the urgent need for federal assistance to mitigate our sky-high unemployment rate, Republicans have maintained their opposition to any new spending. As The Iowa Independent reports, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has dismissed the need for emergency aid, instead bashing the Democrats for what he called “fiscal recklessness, plain and simple.”

McConnell went on to say that “even in the face of public outrage, Democrats are showing either that they just don’t get it on this issue of the debt, or that they just don’t care.”

McConnell’s incoherency

Steve Benen of the Washington Monthly reveals several inconsistencies in the Senate Minority Leader’s rhetoric. For example, McConnell opposed the President’s proposed jobs bill, because it would have increased the federal deficit. And yet, McConnell had this to say about the problems plaguing the nation:

“Right now, among other challenges, we have a debt crisis, a jobs crisis, a housing crisis, a financial crisis, and an oil spill that the American people clearly don’t believe government is effectively responding to.”

First, McConnell promises to obstruct the passage of a jobs bill because dealing with the jobs crisis will increase the deficit; then he bemoans the government’s failure to deal with the unemployment crisis, among other things. It seems that McConnell abandons conservative talking points when they’re not politically expedient, but maintains conservative inaction and obstruction when it means standing firm against new spending.

The cost of inaction

Populist rhetoric from Conservatives who blocked the bill is cold comfort to the 15 million Americans who are currently unemployed. The news of the Senate’s vote to kill the jobs bill is perhaps most discouraging to the thousands of “99ers”, those who have been without work long enough for their unemployment benefits to expire. Long-term unemployment is hitting older workers especially hard.

As The Minnesota Independent reports, the unemployment rate for people aged 55 and older is higher than it’s been since 1948. And there’s evidence that age discrimination is exacerbating the jobs crisis for these older workers.

Another world is possible in the Motor City

Any economic stimulus would likely be welcome in Michigan, where over ten thousand activists are convening this week for the second USSF in Detroit. Michigan has the second highest unemployment rate in the nation—a staggering 13.6%, and unemployment and the economy will be high on the agenda at the 2010 USSF.

Detroit has been one of the hardest hit cities in the nation during the economic downturn, with U.S. carmakers and members of the United Auto Workers (UAW) union bearing the brunt. Richard Feldman, a UAW member, is among those participating in the social forum. He talked to Inter Press Service about the challenges that face union automakers:

“I don’t think it is about losing to Asia but recognising we need to create new concepts of transportation that respect the limits of planetary resources and where workers and communities are respected and given a voice at the table.”

According to Truthout’s Paul Abowd, while USSF attendees plan to address nearly every progressive cause under the sun, “Forum-goers are also focused on the host city at a time when the event’s tagline – ‘Another Detroit is Happening’ – is both promising and foreboding.”

Detroit’s new mayor, Democrat David Bing and his “crisis turnaround team” have wasted no time getting started on their plans to revitalize the city. As Abowd reports:

“The new mayor is promising to shrink Detroit and its infrastructure, and has gathered the business community and suburban philanthropies to put down-payments on a Detroit dreamscape: a downtown light rail line, a new hockey stadium, shiny charter schools to complement a slimmed down “traditional” district, an industrial farm on the East side, and new housing enclaves.”

Many of those involved in the USSF have high hopes for the the Forum’s potential to help jump start the city’s revival. As Lottie Spady, a food justice organizer working on the Forum puts it:

“I think we need to use the Social Forum as an opportunity to say to city officials, look – you’re dealing with a population that can mobilize 20,000 people to come to Detroit…Outside of a sporting event, when does that happen?”

Yes! Magazine’s Sarah van Gelder also elaborates on how the USSF could becoming a source of hope for Detroit.

An outgrowth of the World Social Forum, the USSF will feature workshops covering a wide variety of social justice and environmental issues. Over 15,000 progressives and 1,300 organizations are expected to participate.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the economy by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Audit for a complete list of articles on economic issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, health care and immigration issues, check out The Mulch, The Pulse and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.


We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:


  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.


  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.