Sometimes, when it comes to the economy, boring news is good news. Take the latest Labor Department report on initial unemployment claims, for example.
The number of people who applied for U.S. unemployment benefits edged up by 3,000 to 271,000 in the seven days from June 14 to June 20, but layoffs remain quite low amid a steady increase in hiring and a tightening labor market. Economists polled by MarketWatch had expected claims to total a seasonally adjusted 274,000.
The average of new claims over the past month, meanwhile, fell by 3,250 to 273,750, the Labor Department said Thursday.
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. At this point, we’ve been below 300,000 in 35 of the last 41 weeks.
For those engaged in the debate over trade, the last six weeks have been a roller coaster unlike anything the political world has seen in a while. Opponents of President Obama's trade agenda were winning, the supporters were winning. Then opponents reclaimed the advantage, only to see supporters take it right back.
As of late yesterday, however, it appears the White House and its unusual set of allies are going to get exactly what they want. NBC News reported last night:
A critical aspect of President Barack Obama's economic legacy got a boost on Wednesday when the Senate voted to approve giving him "fast-track" authority to negotiate a sweeping 12-nation trade pact without the threat of Congress adding amendments or filibustering the final deal.
The vote was 60-38. The measure now heads to the president's desk for signature.
The final roll call on the Senate vote is online here.
Note, Congress passed Trade Promotion Authority -- better known as "fast-track" -- without the labor-friendly Trade Adjustment Assistance, but that will soon change. Under the plan hatched by the president and Republican leaders, TAA will be on its way to the Oval Office by tomorrow. Indeed, it passed the Senate late yesterday on a voice vote and is expected to clear the House with relative ease.
House Democrats originally blocked TAA, which they support, in the hopes of derailing the larger trade agenda, but now that fast-track has already passed, the Democratic minority no longer has an incentive to oppose the policy they like. Several House Dems who oppose the trade agenda acknowledged yesterday that the fight is "over."
That's largely true, though there's likely to be one more round.
John Hawkins, former president of the black student body at Ole Miss, talks with Rachel Maddow about his refusal to wave the Confederate battle flag as a cheerleader for the school, a stance that led to the phasing out the use of that flag by the school. watch
Rachel Maddow reports the breaking news of the arrest of corrections officer Gene Palmer, a prison guard in connection with the escape of two convicted murderers from the maximum security wing of the Clinton Correctional Facility in Upstate New York. watch
Paul Butler, Georgetown Law professor and former federal prosecutor, talks with Rachel Maddow about what is means that the Justice Department will likely file federal hate crimes charges against the Charleston church shooter for killing nine people. watch
* More on this in the morning: "After no shortage of fits and starts, the centerpiece of President Barack Obama's trade agenda -- Trade Promotion Authority -- is finally heading to his desk."
* The Pakistani death toll has topped 800: "After four days of punishing heat that killed hundreds of people in this southern port city, the temperature and death toll were lower on Wednesday. Health and rescue officials said the number of deaths, which have surpassed 800, was down on Wednesday as the temperature dropped to 98 degrees Fahrenheit."
* Ali Awni al-Harzi: "An American drone strike last week killed a midlevel operative with the Islamic State who had been a conduit for the militant group's outreach to extremists in North Africa, Defense Department officials said on Monday."
* France: "French President Francois Hollande branded alleged spying by the National Security Agency on him and two predecessors as 'unacceptable' on Wednesday."
* South Carolina: "The Chief Magistrate widely criticized for soliciting sympathy for the family of a man accused of fatally shooting nine people during a Bible study last week has been replaced, according to a Wednesday order from the S.C. Supreme Court."
* Baltimore, Part I: "Freddie Gray suffered a single 'high-energy injury' to his neck and spine -- most likely caused when the police van in which he was riding suddenly decelerated, according to a copy of the autopsy report obtained by The Baltimore Sun."
* Baltimore, Part II: each of the officers charged in the Gray case has pleaded not guilty.
* Boston: "A choked-up Dzhokhar Tsarnaev apologized in court Wednesday to the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings, then was formally sentenced to die for the attack. 'You told us just how unbearable it was, this thing I put you through,' Tsarnaev said at a hearing in Boston. 'Now, I am sorry for the lives that I have taken.'"
* Eastern Europe: "The U.S. will spread about 250 tanks, armored vehicles and other military equipment across six former Soviet bloc nations to help reassure NATO allies facing threats from Russia and terrorist groups, Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced Tuesday."
There was a point late last year in which Mitt Romney clearly wanted to run once again for president. Romney and his aides kept telling reporters about his interest, and just as importantly, they told Republican donors to wait before rallying behind a 2016 favorite.
Team Romney realized that Jeb Bush was well positioned to be the GOP establishment's candidate of choice, but Romney and his staff also saw Bush as vulnerable. "You saw what they did to me with Bain [Capital]," Romney reportedly told allies behind closed doors. "What do you think they'll do to [Bush] over Barclays?"
The argument may have lacked self-awareness, but it raised a legitimate point. Jeb Bush's work with the investment banks Lehman Brothers and Barclays would likely be a problem if he wins the Republican nomination.
But perhaps no candidate would be as closely associated with Wall Street as Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R). The Democratic National Committee circulated this clip today of the Ohio Republican talking about his private-sector background.
"My military reform activities were basically completed, so I decided to leave Washington [in 2001]. So, I went out and spent 10 years in the private sector and I just loved it. I never thought that I would be back in politics."
Kasich made similar comments to Time magazine just last week. Asked whether he has any regrets from his time in the private sector, the Ohio Republican was incredulous.
"It was fantastic," Kasich told Time. "Are you kidding? Regrets? I thought it was a fantastic time. I traveled all over the country. I got an incredible education. I worked my tail off. It was great."
As much as I appreciate the governor's enthusiasm, there's a small problem with his "fantastic" experiences in the private sector.
It was just a week ago that a gunman murdered nine people in a Charleston church, renewing an ongoing debate over, among other things, the public's easy access to guns.
Given the way the argument usually goes, it was hard for cynics not to wonder how quickly some policymakers would expand gun rights after the massacre. Now we know.
Scott Walker expanded gun rights in Wisconsin on Wednesday by signing into law two bills that, respectively, get rid of the state's 48-hour waiting period and let retired or off-duty law enforcement officials carry concealed firearms into public schools. [...]
Walker, who is expected to jump into the 2016 presidential race in the next few weeks, often touts his efforts to roll back gun laws in the state. He also has an A-plus rating from the National Rifle Association.
In fairness, it's important to emphasize, as the Politicoreport does, that these state measures have been in the works for quite a while -- the Wisconsin bills are unrelated to developments in Charleston.
Still, the timing is jarring. To expand gun rights so soon after yet another mass shooting suggests a certain indifference to the broader debate.
As for the policy itself, Wisconsin Democrats reminded the state's GOP majority that a 48-hour waiting period has been an effective "cooling-off period for those contemplating suicide or who might shoot another person in a fit of passion, especially in cases of domestic abuse."
Walker and his Republican allies were evidently not persuaded.
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) announced on Monday that she wants to see the Confederate battle flag taken down from the state capitol grounds. But under state law, the decision isn't entirely hers to make -- the governor will need the cooperation of the Republican-run state legislature.
With this in mind, as we noted on Monday, the Post and Courier newspaper is maintaining a head-count, updated in real time, listing state lawmakers' position on the issue. As of a few minutes ago, support for removing the flag appeared to have the necessary votes in the state Senate, and they're nearing the threshold in the state House.
But it's not unanimous. The Huffington Postflagged one South Carolina lawmaker who's inclined to vote "no."
South Carolina state Rep. Bill Chumley (R) told CNN he thinks the nine victims of a shooting in a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina, "waited their turn to be shot."
Chumley was defending the use of the Confederate flag at the South Carolina capitol grounds when he made the remarks, blaming "misuse and miseducation of the flag" for the debate over its use. Chumley argued access to guns, not the Confederate flag, is what South Carolina lawmakers should be focusing on in the aftermath of the massacre.
"These people sat in there and waited their turn to be shot," Chumley said. "That's sad. Somebody in there with a means of self-defense could've stopped this."
TPM's report added that Chumley, in the same interview, tried to explain that he's representing his constituents who want the Confederate symbol to remain in place. "We're focusing on the wrong thing here," he said. "We need to be focusing on the nine families that are left and see that this doesn't happen again."
And if he'd just stopped there, his comments would have gone without notice. But the GOP lawmaker just kept going -- suggesting the victims of a mass murder bear some responsibility for the death toll.
Launched in 2008, “The Rachel Maddow Show” follows the machinations of policy making in America, from local political activism to international diplomacy. Rachel Maddow looks past the distractions of political theater and stunts and focuses on the legislative proposals and policies that shape American life - as well as the people making and influencing those policies and their ultimate outcome, intended or otherwise.
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