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Playing With Numbers. Budgeting in the Age of Polarization

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Snow-in-the-MD-Suburbs

This week the President rolled out his budget.  There was a lot of hand wringing and posturing about the size of the budget — now measured in trillions —  and the size of the deficit it projects.

Yawn.

Can we please talk about something else?  Torturing the underwear bomber (not to be confused with the shoe bomber)?  Maybe the snow storm of the century (and possibly the 20th Century, as well) which hit DC with a vengeance?  That’s something to talk about.  Prince George’s County, MD has already blown through it’s budget for snow removal from the last storm.  Now it looks like some of the politicians may have to call off their foreign “trade missions” to move some money around.  Gasp!  What is this world coming to?

Earmarks Galore For All But Housing

It seems that, once again, members of Congress are lining up to line the coffers of their favorite project back home.  It doesn’t seem to matter if it’s a defense project the Pentagon doesn’t want. It may be a little premature but my guess is that even Scott Brown himself will be bellying up to the bar for a piece of well cooked pork for his Tea Party buddies back in the Bay State.

What I’m not hearing is anything about continued support for the housing market.  It looks like when the tax credit deadline expires this time, it will really be dead.  Of course, NAR is going to advocate for an extension.  That’s what NAR does.  Quite frankly, I’m not really sure it’ll do much good.  Either NAR advocating for an extension or the extension, if one is granted.  Perhaps NAR should devote it’s energy to other matters. Say, lobbying for more accessible financing and pounding in the last nail of the HVCC coffin.

In The End It Won’t Matter

No matter what NAR does or even what would make good fiscal sense, very little will get done and Congress will be dithering over the budget for the next year.  They’ll pass some continuing resolutions to keep the Government running.  They’ll scream and yell at each other and call each other names. Then we’ll have an election.  Maybe then we’ll see something get done.  But, I’m not holding my breath.  It seems that no matter who is in the majority, those in the minority will obstruct and delay. Both sides have long memories and they all hold grudges.

“Loves sunrise walks on the beach, quaint B & Bs, former Barbie® boyfriend..." Ken is a sole practitioner and Realtor Extraordinaire in the beautiful MD Suburbs of DC. When he's not spouting off on Agent Genius he holds court from his home office in Glenn Dale, MD or the office for RE/MAX Advantage Realty in Fulton, MD...and always on the MD Suburbs of DC Blog

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Politics

Texas overpaid unemployed residents by millions and now wants it all back

(POLITICS) Thousands of unemployed workers were overpaid in unemployment benefits by the State. Now Texas is asking them to return it all back.

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Texas needs money

46 million Americans have filed for unemployment in 2020 as a result of the current pandemic.

In April 2020, the United States saw its highest unemployment rate, at 14.9 percent, since 1933’s Great Depression. 46 million Americans lost their jobs and were forced to file unemployment claims after closures of workplaces were deemed necessary by government officials in response to Covid-19. Since mid-March, 2.7 million, a staggering 13 percent of its population, filed for unemployment in Texas. In hopes of preventing what would have been a devastating economic crisis, federal representatives created a relief package to aid states in taking care of its citizens. Now, states like Texas are demanding that 46,000 unemployment claimants give back any overpaid money they received.

Yes. You read that right.

Texas overpaid its citizens by $32 Million.

I hate to break it to you Texas, but that sounds like a YOU problem. It’s one thing to demand a refund of money given if the unemployment claimant falsified claim information, it’s another thing to request overpaid money from someone who, now dependent on the government, had no idea they were receiving any extra cash. One could however, argue that between the $600 per week given as a result of the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation passed under the CARES Act, in addition to regular benefits received, many Americans were and still are receiving well over their normal paycheck. This may be true, but for many others, unemployment benefits do not match their normal paycheck. Even so, stay at home mandates and closures of stores, parks, gyms and schools lead to unplanned spending!

A pack of 50 face masks cost $30 on Amazon compared to the normal $8. School closures obligated parents to stock up on school supplies, have food for lunch in the house, buy art, music and outside activity supplies. As many employers have lost the ability to provide health insurance for unemployed workers, a quick trip to the Emergency room will cost you an arm and a leg.

This is not to say that it doesn’t suck for Texas that they overpaid on benefits, but, it’s also not most of those claimants faults. Chances are, any extra money is long gone and to expect people to come up with money they never knew they would owe back…is rude, quite frankly! Doing so also defeats the purpose of unemployment benefits in the first place, which is to help keep afloat those who lost their jobs through no fault of their own.

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The White House pushes for $450 per week return to work bonus

(POLITICS) The Trump administration wants people off the unemployment $600 per week, and they want people getting back to work with a $450 per week bonus.

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unemployment

In an update to our previous story on the next piece of proposed stimulus legislation, the White House is looking at options for a return-to-work bonus, making clear their preference for incentivizing reopening the economy rather than extending unemployment benefits for the time being.

CNBC reports that the Trump administration has, according to Larry Kudlow, voiced their disapproval of the proposed extension of the extra $600 per week for families on unemployment, opting instead for a smaller temporary weekly sum for people returning to work.

To recap, the current bonus of $600 per week for those on unemployment is scheduled to expire after July 31st, but the HEROES Act from House Democrats proposed extending it through the end of the year; the notion attracted criticism for several reasons, the most notable of which included waning unemployment numbers and some viewing the idea as an incentive to continue collecting unemployment rather than actually stimulating the economy.

An ancillary proposition to decrease the amount of extra aid per week incrementally as unemployment numbers fall was mentioned, but the Trump administration appears to stand firm on their counterproposal involving the aforementioned return-to-work bonus.

It’s not unreasonable for this administration to want to incentivize those who are reluctant to return to work, especially when unemployment numbers in the last few months have been the highest since the Great Depression; in any event, it seems that, whether or not the HEROES Act passes, folks on unemployment will most likely stop receiving that extra $600 per week at the end of this July.

We recognize that a little over a month isn’t a supremely generous amount of time with which to prepare for a sharp cut in income, and there are only a few things you can actively do to ensure that you’re adequately prepared for the proposed incentive.

Firstly, if you’re furloughed for now, there isn’t much you can do other than wait for your place of occupation to open; however, if you were laid off, actively seeking a job opening in your field–or any field, at this point–will be enough for you to qualify for the bonus.

More importantly, however, is that you start looking at how the lack of funding will impact you in the short-term. Remember, 63 percent of Americans on unemployment were actually making more money with the bonus $600 per week than they were while working, so while the impact of losing that bonus come August won’t be negligible, hopefully unemployment is enough to cover the necessities.

Unfortunately, aside from “go back to work”, there isn’t a whole lot to do besides hurry up and wait. We’ll know more about this round of proposed stimulus activity in the coming weeks.

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Politics

Why DID Gorsuch uphold Title VII for the LGBTQ+ community?

(POLITICS) Conservative SCOTUS justices rely on textualism to hand down landmark ruling in favor of LGBTQ rights in Bostock v. Clayton County

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Title VII LGBT equality

I have to admit that my liberal proclivities were offended when Neil Gorsuch was confirmed to the Supreme Court. But the notoriously conservative Justice has followed his professional training to hand down a clear, concise, and logical landmark decision this week in Bostock v. Clayton County. The 6-3 ruling is a major win for the LGBTQIA++ community. Gorsuch is an unexpected champion of the landmark case as the author or the majority opinion.

The case concerned instances of employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and sex identity. In Bostock v. Clayton County, Gerald Bostock asserted he was fired for expressing interest in a gay softball league. The case called into question whether sexual orientation was a protected classification under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The Eleventh Circuit – which hears cases for districts in Alabama, Georgia, and Florida – had relied on a precedent that sexual orientation is not protected by Title VII. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits an employer from discriminating against an employee, “because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.”

Gorsuch’s opinion relies on “textualism,” which is the interpretation of the law based strictly on the written language of a law. This approach to the justice system does not consider the original intentions of the law’s authors, therefore rendering irrelevant whether or not the authors intended to exclude sexual orientation from the list of protected traits. Based on the language of Title VII, the opinion is clear:

“In Title VII, Congress outlawed discrimination in the workplace on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. Today, we must decide whether an employer can fire someone simply for being homosexual or transgender. The answer is clear. An employer who fires an individual for being homosexual or transgender fires that person for traits or actions it would not have questioned in members of a different sex. Sex plays a necessary and undisguisable role in the decision, exactly what Title VII forbids.”

Gorsuch also provides examples to illustrate how discrimination against sexual orientation falls under discrimination based on sex:

“Consider, for example, an employer with two employees, both of whom are attracted to men. The two individuals are, to the employer’s mind, materially identical in all respects, except that one is a man and the other a woman. If the employer fires the male employee for no reason other than the fact he is attracted to men, the employer discriminates against him for traits or actions it tolerates in his female colleague.”

A clear example of discrimination on the basis of sex. RBG must be proud.

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