According to data released Thursday by the U.S. Department of Labor, Wisconsin led the nation in the growth of new unemployment claims for the last week of November.

The number of claims in Wisconsin -- 4,420 that week -- was higher than the combined totals for the states with the second- and third-highest numbers of claims (2,597 for Ohio, and 1,538 for Kentucky.)

So much for Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's much-repeated campaign promise to create new jobs and boost the state economy.

The federal budget deal negotiated this week by House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan, Republican of Wisconsin, and Senate Budget Committee Chair Patty Murray, Democrat of Washington, fails to extend emergency unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed. Wisconsin Congressman Mark Pocan released a report on Tuesday showing that 23,700 Wisconsinites will lose unemployment benefits on December 28, and another 41,800 will lose benefits in the first six months of 2014 if the federal government does not reverse course.

Earlier this week, members of the Wisconsin legislature led by Rep. Cory Mason, Democrat of Racine, sent a letter urging Congressional action to extend the benefits.

"Communities like Racine still face double digit unemployment," Mason wrote. "For those laid-off workers still searching for jobs, unemployment benefits are often the only thing keeping their families financially afloat."

It appears from the signatures on the letter that only Democratic representatives joined the call for an extension, which was left out of the federal budget deal.

"I've heard from other staffers that are getting calls from frustrated constituents trying to get through on the phone to the Department of Workforce Development [which handles unemployment benefits]," says Melanie Conklin, communications director for Wisconsin Assembly Democratic Minority Leader Peter Barca. "One woman today told a staffer she had called 30 times this morning and never got through. Another emailed her rep saying she was trying to return benefits she did not want to claim and has not been able to get through on the phone line for two weeks."

Conklin says she didn't think much about these anecdotes until the labor department report came out today, putting Wisconsin in first place for new unemployment claims.

"As Wisconsin legislators, we hear every day from constituents who are searching for jobs and anxiously watching time run out on their unemployment insurance benefits," Mason wrote in his letter. He said tens of thousands of Wisconsin residents and their families "are weathering unimaginable stress, uncertainty and anxiety as the expiration date of their federal benefits looms."

Photo: Flickr user Richard Hurd, creative commons licensed.


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Trump's politics are not the problem.

The fiery Milwaukee Sheriff is on the shortlist to head the Department of Homeland Security.

By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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