How Would You Put Americans Back to Work?

First and foremost, pay no attention to the gyrations of the stock market. The nation is still hurting, and a big reason is that not enough people have been able to find work. Consider this. In December of 2007, just two years ago, there were 1.7 applicants for every available job. Last month, that number jumped to 6.1.

The House is currently trying to figure out what to do about this. Those people who elected Barack Obama and gave both the House and Senate Democratic majorities are getting antsy. That’s not a good place to be with midterm elections on the horizon. But what to do?

There are a number of proposals on the table. Some lawmakers want to see a second stimulus enacted. Trouble is, no one, least of all the White House, sems to know how many jobs were really created or maintained from the last one. You can probably count a second stimulus as DOA, at least for now.

There are calls for some type of incentive for employers to hire new people. They range from a tax credit, to government funding of health benefits, to a straight payment of up to $3000 to any employer who hires new workers. Congress backed away from these incentives when they were brought up before because they worried employers would game the system (who, those capiatins of free enterprise? Never!!!).

Still others want to see some form of government make woprk program similar to the WPA or CCC during the Great Depression. Cost would be a big impediment here. Moderate Democrats would have the same objections they had to healthcare reform. And the Republicans? Suffice to say that anything that they see as hurting President Obama, like high unemployment, is a good thing.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is urging caution, even in the face of mounting pressure to get something done. To pay for jobs creation, some have argued for using unspent financial bailout money, while others say new fees on securities transactions would make Wall St. foot at least part of the bill.

While out and out jobs creation sounds wonderful, Democrats in both houses of Congress have to be mindful of the political minefield any proposal would have to navigate. So as the House leadership takes its time in coming up with a plan, they must also balance fiscal prudence with an urgent need to act. Fewer and fewer Americans are buying the notion of a recovery, either now or in the near future.

So what would you do to put the unemployed back to work?

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Suicide Soldiers. Why are So Many Killing Themselves in active duty?

The Army says there are already as many active duty suicides in their ranks this year as all of last. That number has reached 140. This news won’t get nearly as much play as whether the terror trials should be held in New York, or whether alleged Ft. Hood Shooter Hasan is a radical  Muslim terrorist. Yet it ought to concern everyone who say they honor the service of our military.

SoldierCrying

In addition to the active duty soldiers who took their own lives, another 71 committed suicide after being taken off active duty, a 25% increase over last year. Army brass are cautioning about drawing any conclusions about why more soldiers are killing themselves. However, the stress being sent to Iraq and/or Afghanistan more than once might be a good place to start.

I can’t imagine what it must be like to do one tour in either of these war zones, spend a few weeks home with your family, then find out you’re going back. Obviously this may not represent the experience of a majority of suicides, and in fact one third of them had never been deployed abroad. Yet it could play a role.

This increased suicide rate takes on added significance in the wake of the Ft. Hood Massacre. The actions of the alleged shooter, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, have caused the military to take a second look at whether it’s missing signs of depression in its ranks. Consider that the rate of suicides per 100,000 people in the US is 11.1. Among active duty soldiers, that number is 20 per 100,000.

Something is wrong here. The folks at the top of the military food chain acknowledge this, and let’s hope they get to the bottom of it. Even as the President talks about phasing out the stop loss policy that sends soldiers back into harm’s way again and again, it hasn’t stopped yet.

Part II may have a bit to do with the current state of the US economy. Even as we say we honor the service of our military, the economic downturn has made it more difficult for them to find work after their service is done. Some may see staying in the military as an unpalatable job of last resort.

And then there’s this. Could some soldiers be so stressed out at the prospect of being sent into a combat zone that they take their own lives? Until the hysteria began, Maj. Hasan was believed to be experiencing  just that kind of stress.

So you tell me. Why are so many soldiers killing themselves? And what do we need to do to stop it?

Resources:

Soldier Suicide Prevention

Suicide Prevention Lifetime

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Sex & Lies. Can a Scorned Husband Bring Down a US Senator?

In the television series “The Good Wife”, a woman has to deal with her politically powerful husband going to jail for sexual impropriety. But what happens when in real life the shoe is on the other foot?

Some of you may remember the tawdry affair involving Nevada Republican Senator John Ensign and his dalliance with a staffer. Well, the staffer’s husband in on the warpath, apparently in an effort to shame him into resigning.

Darlene Ensign and Senator John Ensign
Darlene Ensign and Senator John Ensign

Doug Hampton has been interviewed by, among others, the New York Times and ABC’s “Nightline”, and he shows no sign on slowing down. I’m not sure you can blame him. His wife Cindy carried on the affair with Ensign despite the fact that they were family friends. Both worked for him, even as he was a member of “The Promise Keepers”, that group of ultra-religious conservative men who purport tolive more pious lives than the rest of us.

Hampton alleges that Ensign may have engaged in illegal conduct in paying his wife $25,000 in severance after the affair ended. If that money wasn’t properly reported to the Federal Election Commission, Ensign could face a felony charge. Beyond that, it must be downright embarrassing to have this guy dogging your every move.

It also creates a bit of a problem for the Republican Party. Five months after the Ensign affair was exposed, the GOP thought the whole thing was pretty much done with. They’ve since trained their sights on deposing Ensign’s Democratic counterpart, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. It looks like they think if they don’t say anything about Ensign, the whole thing will just blow over.

Some will argue Doug Hampton’s crusade is nothing ore than that of a cuckolded husband getting even. After all, he and Cindy (or is it Cynthia?) remain married, as do Ensign and his wife. However, John Ensign was the guy who led the charge after fellow Republican Larry Craig was caught up in that bathroom sex sting. Craig stuck around as well.

Funny, you don’t hear the same chest thumping about John Ensign that you hear about Charles Rangel. Like Rangel, Ensign is being investigated by his body’s ethics committee. Almost no one is demanding he step down from the Finance or Homeland Security committees. In fact, the only person making a fuss is Doug Hampton. The question now is whether the Republicans’ wall of silence will make his quest a moot point.

What do you think? Will Doug Hampton, husband scorned, have any impact on the career of Sen. john Ensign? You tell me.

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