Mojo - January 2014

Economy Adds 74,000 Jobs—Economists Predicted 200,000-Plus

| Fri Jan. 10, 2014 11:47 AM EST

The economy added just 74,000 jobs in December, which was fewer than expected, according to new numbers released by the Labor Department on Friday. The unemployment rate dropped to 6.7 percent. But as has been the case in previous months, this drop is due largely to the fact that many Americans left the labor force, and thus were not officially counted as unemployed by the government.

The number of jobs added in December was the smallest monthly gain in three years. Gains of over 200,000 jobs had been expected.

The unemployment rate for adult men and whites declined last month to 6.3 percent and 5.9 percent, respectively. Meanwhile, the jobless rate for blacks and Hispanics remained disproportionately high at 11.9 percent and 8.3 percent. The unemployment rate for Asians remained at 4 percent. The rate for women held at 6 percent. 

In December (as in November), 7.8 million Americans were employed in part-time work because they could not find full-time jobs.

As in previous months, employment increased in low-wage service jobs. Jobs in retail, including in restaurants, bars, and clothing stores, rose by 55,000 in December. Temp work gained 40,000 jobs. 

Manufacturing added 9,000 jobs. Employment numbers in the healthcare industry held steady.

The number of long-term unemployed—those without a job for 27 weeks or more—remained at a whopping 37.7 percent of the unemployed last month. Federal unemployment benefits for the long-term jobless expired at the end of the year. The Senate recently voted to consider a bill renewing these benefits, but it is unclear if Republicans in the Senate and House will approve a final bill.

If Congress does not renew the benefits, we may see an even greater shrinkage in the labor force, as the long-term unemployed, who are some of the least employable Americans, no longer have the means to continue searching for jobs.

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We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for January 10, 2014

Fri Jan. 10, 2014 11:27 AM EST

Private First Class Christopher Greene with Troop O (Outlaw), 4th Squadron, Combined Task Force Dragoon, occupies a security position during a partnership patrol with members of the Afghan Uniformed Police Dec. 30, 2013, at Kandahar Province, Afghanistan. Troopers with Outlaw conducted a series of partner missions with the AUP near various security checkpoints throughout the province. (U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Joshua Edwards)

Christie Says, "I Am Not a Bully." Here Are 8 Videos of Him Yelling, Name-Calling, and Belittling People.

| Thu Jan. 9, 2014 6:06 PM EST

On Thursday, New Jersey GOP Gov. Chris Christie held a press conference to address allegations that his appointees orchestrated a dangerous traffic jam for political revenge. Christie maintained that he was deceived by a member of his "circle of trust" and noted that he had fired his deputy chief of staff, Bridget Anne Kelly, who was implicated in the scandal. He insisted that he had not known that Kelly ordered the traffic problems until the news broke on Wednesday. But many commentators have wondered if this whole episode—whether Christie was in the know or not—has bolstered the view that Christie is a bully.

Christie took issue with this characterization at the press conference. He asserted, "I am who I am. But I am not a bully…The tone that we've set here [is] that I'm willing to compromise." But those who have been the targets of Christie's wrath disagree. And here are 8 videos of Christie yelling, belittling people, and name-calling—and most of the clips are promoted by Christie himself on his popular YouTube page:

1. Christie to a teacher: "If what you want to do is put on a show and giggle every time I talk, well then I have no interest in answering your question."

2. Christie to a former Navy SEAL: "Your rear end's going to get thrown in jail, idiot."

3. Christie to a reporter: "You know Tom, you must be the thinnest-skinned guy in America…you should really see me when I'm pissed."

4. Christie to a constituent: "Hey Gail, you know what, first off it's none of your business." 

​5. Christie to a former White House doctor: "This is just another hack who wants five minutes on TV…she should shut up." 

​6. Christie to an Occupy Wall Street protester: "Something may be going down tonight, but it ain't going to be jobs, sweetheart."

7. Christie to a reporter: "Are you stupid?…I'm sorry for the idiot over there." 

8. Christie to a person on the street: "You're a real big shot. You're a real big shot. Just keep walking away. Keep walking." 

Chris Christie: I Am "Heartbroken" and "Embarrassed" About Bridge Scandal—But Not Guilty

| Thu Jan. 9, 2014 12:36 PM EST
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

On Thursday, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie fired a top aide who ordered lane closures that caused a weeklong traffic jam on the George Washington Bridge and in nearby Fort Lee. Christie also forced his former campaign manager, Bill Stepien, who was aware of the lane closure plans, to drop out of the running to chair the New Jersey Republican Party, and told Stepien to cancel a lucrative contract with the Republican Governors Association, which Christie chairs.

In a press conference Thursday morning, Christie apologized to the people of Fort Lee and New Jersey and to the state Legislature for the lane closures. He said that his deputy chief of staff, Bridget Anne Kelly, "lied to me" about her role in the traffic mess, while insisting that he knew nothing about the decision to cause the traffic jam. "I am heartbroken that someone that I permitted to be in that circle of trust for the last five years betrayed my trust," Christie said.

Emails and text messages released Tuesday strongly suggest that Kelly, the senior Christie aide, ordered the traffic debacle as political retribution against the Democratic mayor of Fort Lee, who had declined to endorse Christie in his 2013 gubernatorial race. "Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee," Kelly wrote to David Wildstein, a Port Authority official who resigned in the wake of the traffic jam.

Christie has denied that he personally made the call to close the bridge lanes that caused the traffic jam. "I am outraged and deeply saddened to learn that not only was I misled by a member of my staff, but this completely inappropriate and unsanctioned conduct was made without my knowledge," he said on Wednesday.

At his press conference, Christie reiterated that he had no role in the bridge debacle and that he first learned about it Wednesday after his morning workout. "I was blindsided yesterday morning," he said. "I had no knowledge or involvement in this issue, in its planning or its execution, and I am stunned by the abject stupidity that was shown here." But he added that the responsibility for the scandal is his. "Ultimately, I am responsible for what happens on my watch, the good and the bad, and when mistakes are made, I have to own up to them and take the action that I believe is necessary to remediate them."

In response to critics who said Christie sent the tone of his administration, he said the bridge scandal was "the exception, not the rule." He said he would visit the borough of Fort Lee to apologize for the bridge scandal, and he pledged to "work cooperatively" with state and federal investigations into the scandal.

Shadowy Wisconsin Group That Helped Scott Walker Win His Recall Was Backed by the Koch Network

| Thu Jan. 9, 2014 11:57 AM EST

Days before Wisconsin GOP Gov. Scott Walker's June 2012 recall election, two TV ads ran on stations statewide. Paid for by a group called the Coalition for American Values (CAV), the ads attacked the very notion of holding a recall election (even though it's in the state constitution) and featured supposed Wisconsin citizens speaking out against the recall. "I didn't vote for Scott Walker, but I'm definitely against the recall," one man says. In another ad, the narrator says, "Recall isn't the Wisconsin way...End the recall madness. Vote for Scott Walker June 5th."

CAV put $400,000 behind those ads, which stoked a sense of unease about the recall among Wisconsin voters. Walker coasted to a seven-point victory. Exit polls strongly suggested that CAV's ads played a part in the governor's win. Yet the mystery surrounding the Coalition for American Values persisted. The group never disclosed how much it spent, how much it raised, or who funded it.

Until now. As first reported by the left-leaning Center for Media and Democracy, new tax filings reveal that the main source of CAV's funding was the Center to Protect Patient Rights, an Arizona nonprofit that gave CAV $510,000 in 2012. CPPR is a linchpin in a network of nonprofit groups Charles and David Koch, the billionaire industrialists, use to shuffle money around the country while keeping donors anonymous. California's Fair Political Practices Commission identified the group as "the key nonprofit in the Koch Brothers' dark money network of nonprofit corporations," and hit the group and a related nonprofit with a $1 million fine for failing to disclose donations made during the 2012 election season. All told, CPPR doled out $156 million in dark money in 2011 and 2012, a sizable chunk of the $407 million moved by the Kochs' network of nonprofit groups.

Run by a onetime Koch operative named Sean Noble, CPPR is expected to play less of a role in the Koch network going forward. The California investigation—which revealed the identities of hundreds of previously secret donors and private marketing material used by Republican operatives—brought unwanted scrutiny to the Kochs and their conservative and libertarian allies. An October 2012 Huffington Post story reported that Noble, the former "the wizard behind the screen" for the Kochs, had fallen out of favor. "Noble has had his wings clipped," one Republican operative told HuffPost.

The Center for Media and Democracy says it has filed a formal complaint with Wisconsin's Government Accountability Board alleging that the Coalition for American Values violated state campaign finance laws by not disclosing its CPPR funding. A message left at the phone number listed on CAV's website was not returned.

VIDEO: David Corn on What Chris Christie's Bridge Scandal Means for 2016

| Thu Jan. 9, 2014 11:19 AM EST

Mother Jones DC bureau chief David Corn spoke with MSNBC's Chris Matthews this week about what some traffic problems in Fort Lee could end up meaning for New Jersey governor Chris Christie's political ambitions. Watch here:

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We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for January 9, 2014

Thu Jan. 9, 2014 10:58 AM EST

Sgt. Jonathan Ayala, cyber network operator, hands radio antenna equipment to Staff Sgt. Christopher M. Phibbs, cyber network chief, both with the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, during a communications exercise aboard Camp Pendleton, Calif., Jan. 6, 2014. The exercise is designed to prepare 15th MEU Marines for Exercise Iron Fist. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Emmanuel Ramos/Released)

Marco Rubio to Jobless: Get Out Of Town

| Thu Jan. 9, 2014 9:05 AM EST

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida).

Among the more intriguing proposals in Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida)'s War on Poverty anniversary speech Wednesday was giving jobless people subsidies to move to low-unemployment areas. Sounds like a common-sense fix? Maybe—but Mike Konczal, a expert in unemployment and inequality at the Roosevelt Institute, says it would just move the problem around.

Here's why. Even though some states and localities have sunnier employment rates than others, Konczal tells Mother Jones, that doesn't mean there are more jobs available in those places. "States with low unemployment are often small states that are heavily agricultural," he says. "There is not a lot of dynamic turnover… There are already unemployed people there who want those jobs" that are open. Konczal had a deeper analysis of this type of proposal on the Washington Post's Wonkblog last August, noting that such relocation vouchers would also likely go to"people who are at the back of the job queue—long-term unemployed with low savings. These are populations that will have trouble finding work, and so it is likely that they’d just move to be at the end of the queue of another state."

Kevin Drum has more on Rubio's other proposals, including a government wage subsidy.

Credit Union Offers Teachers Personal Loans for Classroom Supplies

| Thu Jan. 9, 2014 7:00 AM EST
How badly do you really need those erasers?

Evidently, the $1.6 billion that K-12 teachers already spend out of pocket on school supplies just isn't cutting it. Thankfully, the Silver State Schools Credit Union of Las Vegas, Nevada, now offers loans specifically for K-12 teachers who are struggling to scrape together the classroom essentials on their hemorrhaging budgets, Sociological Images reported.

"If you're a K-12 teacher in the state of Nevada, you know that keeping the classroom supply cabinet fully-stocked can be costly," reads the email SSSCU sent to its members. "To help you purchase the materials you need beyond what the school's budget may provide we've created a low-interest Classroom Supply Loan especially for you."

How thoughtful!

Across the nation, states are providing schools with less funding on a per-student-basis than they did before the recession. And, inevitably, teachers are feeling the squeeze. Ironically, Nevada is one of the few states where adjusted spending per student is higher in Fiscal Year 2014 than FY 2008.

SSSCU isn't the only company to offer teacher-targeted school supply loans. But Silver State charges 1.99 percent APR whereas others generally offer 0.0 percent APR, at least in the beginning. As of Wednesday evening, you can still find this most generous offering on SSSCU's webpage.

Predatory lenders have gone after soldiers and students. Now, credit unions have underpaid K-12 teachers in their sights. You stay classy, America.

Corn on "Last Word": Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates Hated Congress

Wed Jan. 8, 2014 5:18 PM EST

Mother Jones DC bureau chief David Corn joins EJ Dionne and MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell to discuss former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates' new memoir. In the book, Gates describes how much he hated testifying before Congress.

David Corn is Mother Jones' Washington bureau chief. For more of his stories, click here. He's also on Twitter.