This past Thursday night, George Clooney played host to a record setting fundraising event for President Obama. Guests included Hollywood’s biggest stars such as Robert Downey Jr., Barbra Streisand and her husband James Brolin, Jack Black, Salma Hayek and Tobey Maguire. Each attendee paid $40,000 for a seat. About $6 million of the evening‘s total $15 million dollar haul came from it’s star studded guests while the rest came from a raffle for small dollar donors. Two winners, both women, got to rub elbows with the rich and famous.
Chef Wolfgang Puck was on hand to cater the event which featured an artichoke salad followed by roasted duckling “Peking style” with tiny buns, a duo of lamb and beef cheek with potatoes and Brussels sprouts, and sweet corn tortellini.
Obama told the crowd that his famed Hope poster from the 2008 campaign was actually from a photograph of Obama sitting next to Clooney when Obama was a U.S. senator. Clooney had been in Washington advocating on behalf of Darfur.
“This is the first time that George Clooney has ever been photo-shopped out of a picture,” the president said. “Never happened before, never happen again.”
It sounds like a really nice event, the kind that the more than 200,000 people who will lose federal unemployment benefits this weekend probably can’t appreciate.
The biggest cuts will take place in California, where 95,300 people will lose their benefits, according to an estimate by the National Employment Law Project. Other states cutting off extended benefits include Texas (22,700), Illinois (26,100), Florida (29,400), Pennsylvania (20,000), North Carolina (20,100), Colorado (11,100) and Connecticut (10,700).
Unemployment benefits in these states will be cut from 99 weeks to between 73 and 79 weeks, depending on the state.
25 other states have already cut extended benefits, including 15 last month.
In February, the Obama administration and Republicans in Congress agreed to temporarily extend federal benefits, but that deal guaranteed that states would be abruptly cutting people off throughout the year.
The standard duration of unemployment benefits is 26 weeks, but there are several tiers of emergency and extended benefits on top of this, which add up to a total of 99 weeks. Under the agreed upon deal, to qualify for the last tier of extended benefits, a state’s current unemployment rate must be at least 10 percent higher than it has been in one of the past three years.
For example, California’s unemployment rate is 10.9 percent. In order for California to be eligible for the last tier of unemployment benefits the state’s unemployment rate would have to have been .9 percent at some point in the last three years.
Nationally, the unemployment rate fell to 8.1 percent in April, but only 115,000 jobs were added while the labor force participation rate—the percentage of Americans 16 years or older who are working or looking for work—fell to 63.6 percent, its lowest level since 1981.
Long-term unemployment, meanwhile, remains at near record highs. Of the officially unemployed, the average duration of unemployment is 39 weeks.
It may be historically inaccurate to say Nero fiddled while Rome burned but we do know for sure he didn’t raise $15 million bucks.