Morning Must Reads: The U.S. Senate to People Driving Over Structurally Deficient Bridges--"Drop Dead"

This morning at 8:30, the U.S. Department of Labor releases national employment data for October. The blogger Bill McBride previews the October report and notes that the consensus forecast is that 90,000 jobs were created in October. In this era of diminished expectations, 90,000 jobs will be greeted with relief, but it would fall well short of the level of job growth needed to bring down the unemployment rate.

The New York Times has an editorial this morning questioning the failure of the U.S. Senate to do more to boost employment growth via increased spending on roads and bridges.

There’s nothing partisan about a road or a bridge or an airport; Democrats and Republicans have voted to spend billions on them for decades and long supported rebuilding plans in their own states. On Thursday, though, when President Obama’s plan to spend $60 billion on infrastructure repairs came up for a vote in the Senate, not a single Republican agreed to break the party’s filibuster.
That’s because the bill would pay for itself with a 0.7 percent surtax on people making more than $1 million. That would affect about 345,000 taxpayers...adding an average of $13,457 to their annual tax bills. Protecting that elite group — and hewing to their rigid anti-tax vows — was more important to Senate Republicans than the thousands of construction jobs the bill would have helped create, or the millions of people who would have used the rebuilt roads, bridges and airports.

As slow economic growth drags on, more and more Pennsylvania municipalities struggle to keep their fiscal house in order.

The 'rapid deterioration in credit metrics,' as Moody's analyst Dan Steed termed it, means towns will likely have to pay more to borrow money in future bond sales.

That is a limited punishment at a time when interest rates are at near-record lows. Still, it will likely make governments more reluctant to borrow and less reluctant to embrace the kind of private-sector takeover of government services and construction projects advocated by Republican governors such as Tom Corbett of Pennsylvania.

Steed blamed 'economic stagnation, high unemployment, declining home values, and low consumer confidence,' along with federal budget cuts.

Paul Krugman's column this morning takes on recent efforts to obfuscate the dangers posed by the sharp increase in U.S. income inequality and concludes with a simple statement about why the concentration of income and wealth is a problem.

But why does this growing concentration of income and wealth in a few hands matter? Part of the answer is that rising inequality has meant a nation in which most families don’t share fully in economic growth.

Another part of the answer is that once you realize just how much richer the rich have become, the argument that higher taxes on high incomes should be part of any long-run budget deal becomes a lot more compelling.

The larger answer, however, is that extreme concentration of income is incompatible with real democracy. Can anyone seriously deny that our political system is being warped by the influence of big money, and that the warping is getting worse as the wealth of a few grows ever larger?


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