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Washington D.C. - The Bush Administration has allowed an increase in oil refinery mergers to go unchecked, even as reduced refining supply seems to be pushing up gas prices.  The rise in gasoline prices is helping refiners generate the highest margins from refining since at least 1990, allowing them to report record profits.  Meanwhile, consumers are facing harmful price spikes and lack of cheaper alternatives, such as E85, at the pumps.

The JEC examined the impacts of consolidation in the oil and gas industry on competition, gasoline prices, and consumers’ energy choices.  Specifically, the Committee investigated whether oil industry mergers and increased market concentration have enabled firms to raise their prices above competitive levels and strategically withhold capacity to keep prices high; and investigated whether firms are preventing the entry of cheaper fuel alternatives for consumers at the pump.

Washington D.C. - The “Sandwich Generation,” is the growing number of families who are caught between the conflicting demands of caring for their aging parents, while raising their children.  From 1992 to 2004, the percentage of households 55 and older with more debt than assets grew faster compared with the overall population.  The trends toward delayed childbearing, smaller family size, longer life expectancy, and increasing costs, are placing substantial burdens on the sandwich generation, just when they should be saving for their children’s college tuition and investing in their own retirement.

The JEC examined the growing economic impact of elder care on families, businesses, and the broader economy.  As the 77 million baby boomers approach retirement and as more women enter the workforce, these problems are only expected to increase. The number of aging parents per worker between the ages of 45 and 54 is expected to double by 2035.

Mar 28 2007

The Economic Outlook

This was the first Congressional appearance for Chairman Bernanke after the March 21 FOMC statement, which showed greater uncertainty about the future direction of the economy and Fed policy than previous statements but without specifically mentioning the subprime mortgage market.  As the subprime loan market continues its downward spiral, trade deficits continue to be large and unsustainable and other economic news breaks, Sen. Schumer and the JEC members asked Chairman Bernanke for his views and guidance on the economic outlook. 

Washington D.C. - There is a growing crisis of joblessness for African-American men. Across the country, far too many black men – especially in urban areas – face difficulty finding and keeping work. The numbers are staggering and getting worse.  As far back as 1980, a 20-year old black man was almost twice as likely to be unemployed than a white male of the same age.  Even during the economic boom of the 1990s, the annual labor force participation rate of African American males over 20 dropped from 75 percent in 1990 to 72 percent in 1999, and it remained between three and four percentage points below that of white males with few exceptions. The recent downturn in manufacturing jobs will exacerbate African-American male unemployment numbers because they make up a large share of those jobs.

The JEC examined federal policy solutions, such as job training and social insurance reform, that will help us meet the challenges of this serious problem.  The landmark JEC hearing marked the first significant effort by the committee to address the economic status of African Americans since 1990 and it came on the eve of the release of new employment figures by the federal government.  As of January 2007, the unemployment rate for African American men age 20 and older is 7.5%.

Washington D.C. - Many American families experience substantial variability in their year-to-year earnings and income, and their economic instability may be greater than in the past due to the consequences of globalization and technology. This hearing explored the extent of earnings and income instability faced by middle-class families in our dynamic economy and examine policies like wage insurance and income averaging to empower workers to manage both temporary earnings losses and more permanent declines.  Senator Schumer is working with Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA), Chairman of the Ways and Means Income Security and Family Support Subcommittee, on a wage insurance proposal to be introduced next month.

Washington D.C. - In an increasingly dynamic global economy, many American families are facing substantial new economic risks that are undermining their ability to save for their retirements or invest in their futures.  Unless action is taken to restore a sense of economic security and chance for prosperity to the middle class, the excessive risk shouldered by most American families will take its toll on economic growth. In its first hearing of the 110th Congress the Joint Economic Committee examined the impact of middle class economic insecurity on long-term economic growth.