Benjamin Landy for the Century Foundation: On Dec. 28, roughly 1.3 million Americans lost their unemployment insurance after Congress failed to renew an emergency program that would have extended benefits for the long-term jobless.

Three weeks later, lawmakers are still dithering. Some high-profile Republicans have joined Democrats in supporting another extension of the Emergency Unemployment Compensation program, although they disagree over how it should be funded. Others, like Sen. Rand Paul, have suggested that providing unemployment insurance longer than the typical 26 weeks does workers "a disservice," lulling them into complacency.

There are a number of reasons why Paul's comments were off base, from the bleak moral vision they represent to the numerous studies showing unemployment insurance actually helps workers stay in the labor force. But perhaps the most obvious rebuttal is this: Four years into the economic recovery, there are still less than 4 million job openings for more than 10 million unemployed people. Including the nearly 1 million Americans who also have no job but are counted as "discouraged" rather than "unemployed," that's approximately three job applicants per available position.



Richard Bush III for the the Brookings Institution: On Dec. 26, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited the Yasukuni Shrine, where, since the late 19th century, the souls of Japan's war dead have been enshrined. Because 14 Class A war criminals from World War II are among those enshrined, China, which Japan invaded in the 1930s, has always taken offense when Japanese prime ministers have gone to Yasukuni to pay their respects. It has regarded these visits as a negative indicator of Japan's future intentions. This latest occasion was no exception, and tensions between the two countries have risen as a result. That may not have been Prime Minister Abe's intention, but that was certainly the result.

China’s rhetorical response has been harsh, but in other respects, the reaction is somewhat restrained. There have been no anti-Abe demonstrations. ...

What will be China’s response beyond the short term? Actually, we have seen this movie before — from 2001 to 2006 when Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi visited Yasukuni repeatedly, ignoring China’s concerns. Japan-China relations went into the deep freeze and Beijing undertook a series of policy measures. I expect that China will follow the same playbook, which it has also used with appropriate adjustments, against Christopher Patten, the last governor of Hong Kong, and Presidents Lee Teng-hui and Chen Shui-bian of Taiwan. The pages of that playbook, adapted for the current circumstances would be:

• Demonize Abe himself and minimize the amount of high-level diplomatic contact that Chinese leaders have with him;

• Freeze any government-to-government cooperation that benefits Japanese interests;

• Set forth a set of clear requirements of what Japan will have to do to restore good relations (perhaps, for example, a pledge from the Japanese prime minister to make no more visits to Yasukuni);

• Exert pressure on Japan at specific points of friction, for example, the islands that China calls Diaoyu and Japan calls Senkaku;

• Cultivate political forces in Japan who might share China’s views about Abe’s actions (for example, sympathetic politicians and sectors of the business community that rely on trade with China);

• Seek to drive wedges between Japan and the United States and between Japan and Korea;

• Compete vigorously with Japan in international arenas (e.g. in Africa); and

• Play for time, until Abe ends his tenure as prime minister.



Bryce Covert for ThinkProgress: Hispanic communities were hit hardest by the housing boom and subsequent crash, according to a new analysis from Zillow.

Home values in areas where Hispanics are the biggest share of the population saw home values fall 46.2 percent from the height of the bubble to the bottom of the bust. Black communities were also hit hard, with values dropping 32.3 percent. Whites, on the other hand, saw a drop of 23.6 percent, and Asians experienced a 19.9 percent decline.

The good news is that Hispanic communities have bounced back the fastest, climbing 25.3 percent from the bottom. Asians are also now in “full recovery,” the report notes. Black communities, on the other hand, have seen just a 13.2 percent increase in home values over the past two years.

The housing crash had disproportionate impacts on people of color in other ways. The percentage of black and Hispanic homeowners affected by foreclosure was nearly twice as high as that of whites in 2011.