Morning Must Reads: Congress Passes Trade Deals while Families Suffer

Unemployment in most places is higher than it has been in decades, and worse still unemployment rates have started rising again as private-sector job growth has stalled and the public sector continues to shed jobs. The economy needs a boost, but Congress is making no progress towards passing a jobs bill. You might be tempted to think Congress can agree on nothing. Well, it depends on what you mean by nothing.

The economic benefits are projected to be small [blogger's note: even according to people whose models capture gains from trade but not the downside]. A federal agency estimated in 2007 that the impact on employment would be 'negligible' and that the deals would increase gross domestic product by about $14.4 billion, or roughly 0.1 percent.

This 112th Congress is building a solid record of having a negligible effect on employment. Meanwhile, back in the real world, a story that just breaks your heart.

What [Chelsea] Hines wants most are answers — and the confidence that one day she would be able to support a family.

Hines, the Drexel Hill camper, graduated from high school in June and now works in a pizza parlor, hoping she can get enough financial aid to attend Delaware County Community College.

She turns over half her earnings to her family — two working parents, and two brothers, 20 and 13.

The 20-year-old was laid off from a job in a lumber yard. Her father, a news junkie, earned a journalism degree in college and drives a truck. Her mother works as a school secretary, moonlighting as a hairdresser.

'It's not enough,' Hines said. 'It's never enough.'

They lost their home to foreclosure. Now they live in a rental home down the street.

'A lady came and locked the door of our house,' Hines said. 'It was a very saddening experience to have a stranger tell me that I can't live in my home. I walk by it every day. There's a padlock on the door and nobody lives there.

'I don't understand why my parents, who both have jobs, can't afford to live in a rowhouse,' she said.

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