Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) is wrapping up his 14-year tenure as his state's chief executive -- the longest such tenure in Lone Star State history -- and as he gets ready to launch a second national campaign, the governor is talking more to the national media. The goal, in all likelihood, is to help reintroduce Perry in the wake of his failed 2012 presidential bid.
It's off to a curious start.
The recently indicted Texas Republican talked with the Washington Post earlier this week, for example, "for a wide-ranging 90-minute interview." It was a reminder that Perry hasn't quite shaken off some of his bad habits.
Last week, Perry studied income inequality and economic mobility with experts Scott Winship, Erin Currier and Aparna Mathur. In the Post interview, he was asked about the growing gap between rich and poor in Texas, which has had strong job growth over the past decade but also has lagged in services for the underprivileged.
"Biblically, the poor are always going to be with us in some form or fashion," he said.
I'm not a Biblical scholar, but I can find no Scriptural references to the notion that that the poor "are always going to be with us." [Update: see below]
Perry acknowledged that the richest Texans have experienced the greatest amount of earnings growth, but dismissed the notion that income inequality is a problem in the state, saying, "We don't grapple with that here."
I suppose that's true -- in order to "grapple with" a problem, policymakers have to at least try to address it -- though the fact remains that income inequality has gotten much worse in Texas in recent years, and a 2012 analysis of income trends published by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found that Texas was the nation's seventh-worst state when it comes to the gap between rich and poor.
The governor's new interview with msnbc's Kasie Hunt was arguably even more informative about Perry's progress as a national candidate.
The number of people who applied for U.S. unemployment benefits inched down by 3,000 to 294,000 in the week that ended Dec. 6, hitting the lowest level in three weeks, as employers continued to lay off very few workers, according to government data released Thursday. Economists polled by MarketWatch had expected initial claims to drop a hair to 296,000 from 297,000 in the prior week.
The average of new claims for regular state unemployment-insurance benefits over the past month inched up 250 to 299,250, the U.S. Labor Department reported. Economists look at four-week averages to identify trends.
To reiterate the point I make every Thursday morning, it’s worth remembering that week-to-week results can vary widely, and it’s best not to read too much significance into any one report.
In terms of metrics, when jobless claims fall below the 400,000 threshold, it’s considered evidence of an improving jobs landscape, and when the number drops below 370,000, it suggests jobs are being created rather quickly. At this point, we’ve been 300,000 in 13 of the last 14 weeks.
Current funding for the federal government expires tonight at midnight, but at least on the surface, Republican leaders insist there's no cause for alarm. They have a plan.
This afternoon, the GOP-led House will hold a vote on a $1.1 trillion spending package, which will draw significant Republican opposition -- it doesn't even try to derail President Obama's immigration policy -- but which Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) expects to pass with some Democratic support. Add some Senate support and possibly a three-day extension on current funding and ... Voila! Shutdown averted.
It's a reasonable strategy, though support from House Democrats waned yesterday as members learned more about one specific provision of the spending bill. As Rachel explained on the show last night:
"After the financial crisis, Congress passed something called Dodd-Frank -- a set of regulations designed to keep anything like what happened to the economy in 2008 from happening again.
"One of those regulations said to the banks, 'Hey, you know those incredibly risky trades you were doing that almost made the economy implode -- oh, that did make the economy implode -- the federal government is not going to ensure those trades anymore. You can do them yourself if you want, but they`re not going to be insured by the taxpayers. You have to keep those separate from the rest of your business.'
"House Republicans in the big budget bill they released last night decided to take that rule change away. They decided to tell the banks that, 'Yes, the American taxpayers would be happy to once again underwrite that kind of high risk trading. Taxpayers would love to be on the hook for that again.'"
We don't know exactly which member of Congress quietly inserted this measure into the spending bill -- wouldn't you know it, no one has been willing to take credit -- but as Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) noted on the show last night, "[T]his was a provision that was written by Citigroup lobbyists. I mean, they literally wrote it. They ... re-edited it and made sure it said exactly what they wanted it to say."
It has been subjected to no debate. There have been no hearings. Members have seen no evidence about the change's possible effects.
And with this in mind, members of Congress are confronted with a choice: vote for the so-called "Cromnibus" spending package, including this dangerous Wall Street giveaway, or risk a government shutdown.
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse talks with Rachel Maddow about why he believes the Senate report on Bush-era CIA torture had to be released and what should be done as so much of the report pertains to current policy and personnel. watch
Rachel Maddow reminds viewers of the time Freedom Energy leaked toxic coal waste into a West Virginia water supply and updates the story with the news that the former president of the company, Gary Southern, has been arrested on federal fraud charges. watch
Senator Elizabeth Warren talks with Rachel Maddow about her objections to the surprise addition of a measure in the must-pass spending bill that puts taxpayers back on the hook for risky trading by the same financial giants behind the 2008 crash. watch
Rachel Maddow reports on measures inserted into the must-pass spending bill that have triggered angry objections from some Democrats; from giving Native American land to a mining company, to killing taxpayer protections from risky bank deals. watch
Rachel Maddow reports that while the must-pass-to-keep-the-government's-light-on spending bill has been agreed upon just ahead of the deadline, revelations about a provision for major banks to take risks at taxpayer expense has triggered new objections. watch
Rachel Maddow reports that publisher Melville House will publish the Senate report on Bush-era CIA torture as a book, putting it in the company of the Starr Report and the 9/11 Commission Report, planning an initial printing of 50,000 copies. watch