*Paul Krugman joins the chorus of folks ruminating the expiration of long-term unemployment benefits, and broadens the point to how—and why—the jobless keep getting squeezed out of the Beltway conversation:
The economic recovery has, as I said, been weak and inadequate, but all the burden of that weakness is being borne by workers. Corporate profits plunged during the financial crisis, but quickly bounced back, and they continued to soar. Indeed, at this point, after-tax profits are more than 60 percent higher than they were in 2007, before the recession began. We don’t know how much of this profit surge can be explained by the fear factor — the ability to squeeze workers who know that they have no place to go. But it must be at least part of the explanation. In fact, it’s possible (although by no means certain) that corporate interests are actually doing better in a somewhat depressed economy than they would if we had full employment.
The whole thing is a must-read.
*Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn) is leading a bipartisan group of Senators who want to improve the country’s mental health system—but Sens. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) are blocking it. Here’s Steven Benen:
It’s a classic example of ideology trumping pragmatism in conservative politics. In this case, Franken and a bipartisan, bicameral group of lawmakers have identified a legitimate problem and agreed to a series of effective measures intended to address that problem. It’s not an especially expensive bill and it enjoys the support of mental-health advocates, law enforcement, and veterans’ groups.
*Richard Kim has a fantastic take on the Duck Dynasty brouhaha—he wonders if the campaign to punish Phil Robertson was actually misguided:
The network should return Robertson and Duck Dynasty to the air, but not in the adulterated, cartoon version that has conservatives so besotted (a Facebook page calling for a boycott against A&E has generated over 1.8 million likes). No, Duck Dynasty should get real. It should show Robertson being as homophobic as he pleases, in his home, his church, his community. The show’s editors have previously been criticized for asking Robertson to not say “Jesus” at the end of his prayers; they should now let him get his Jesus freak on, whether in words that invoke hellfire and damnation or those that profess to love the sinner but hate the sin.
*A federal judge granted a government motion to dismiss an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit over bulk collection of data by the NSA, setting up a potential Supreme Court case down the road. Another federal judge took an almost entirely opposite viewpoint last week.
*Reported military sexual assaults jumped by more than 50 percent this year, according to data obtained by the Associated Press. The Pentagon is pointing to this as a sign their reform measures are working—underreported assaults were a huge problem in recent years.
*People warned that a new push in the Senate to hit Iran with even more sanctions during delicate negotiations with the U.S. could damage the diplomatic efforts at hand—and here it is. Nearly 100 hard-line members of the Iranian parliament now want to enrich uranium again at bomb-grade levels, in what appears to be a direct response to the sanctions push.
*Occupy is still out there, and still active—read Scott Keyes on how Occupy Madison built a small home for a low-income couple struggling in the Arctic climes of Wisconsin.
*In Texas, deer hunters are putting in extra work to help stock a program that gives venison to the needy. The New York Times reports the recent food stamp cuts are exacerbating the hunger problem and giving the hunters more to do—but that their efforts will still never be enough to close the gap created by the cuts.
*If you think Ted Cruz is bad, wait until you read about the five Senate hopefuls who are making themselves in his image. Patricia Murphy has the details.
*One year ago today, national gun control legislation seemed like a great bet. Today, not only did it not happen, but there’s been a truly insane amount of mass shootings since Sandy Hook. Adam Weinstein at Gawker has the depressing catalog.
*With Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) seemingly on his way to China, Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) will likely helm the Senate Energy Committee. Ben Adler explains why that has environmentalists justifiably concerned.