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GOP Refuses to Extend Jobless Benefits

GOP Refuses to Extend Jobless Benefits

Dale Sexton, a software product manager, lost his job over the summer, and he’s been searching for a new one ever since. He’s one of the more than four million faces of the new American economy: the long-term unemployed, people who have been seeking work for six months or more. More than a year ago, the New York Times accurately described the unemployment situation as a “crisis,” noting that long-term unemployment came at a high human cost, and disturbingly, research suggests it’s harder to get a job when you’ve been out of work for six months or more.

No small wonder, then, that the true number of long-term unemployed may be much, much higher, as current statistics fail to factor in people who have simply given up. An estimated six million people in the United States have fallen into the cracks, going back to school, seeking under the table employment, or disappearing into poverty traps that are difficult to recover from. The United States is facing a social crisis with scores of unemployed people unable to meet their needs, relying on government benefits to keep themselves fed, housed and clothed while they seek new opportunities.

But thanks to political wrangling, those benefits could be about to vanish. Very, very abruptly. Just days before the new year, an estimated 1.3 million people will no longer be eligible for long-term unemployment benefits, and the government safety net will drop out from under them. Mere weeks later, nearly a million people will join them as their benefits expire as well.

It didn’t have to be this way. Congress had an opportunity to extend benefits before the winter break, but that would have required budget agreement and cooperation between the ferociously warring political parties. The GOP strongly opposed extending benefits, with arguments relying on the idea that it’s not the government’s responsibility to support needy Americans, and suggestions that benefits acted as a disincentive to work. While Democrats attempted to push through a deal, they met strong opposition, with Republicans only agreeing if the Democrats would cut money from elsewhere in the already perilous budget to cover the benefits, to the tune of 25 billion dollars.

Research on the effects of long-term unemployment benefits on the economy shows that for every dollar the government pays out, the economy benefits to the tune of $1.60. As people on benefits spend them on food and other supplies, they stimulate their local economies, engage local businesses and keep their communities economically functional. Without these benefit funds in the economy next year, already depressed and struggling communities could face even more problems, leading to a spread of economic depression including a surge in the unemployment rate as companies are forced to let people go. Thus, the refusal to extend benefits could have a long-term ripple effect with seriously negative outcomes.

The issues with unemployment benefits don’t only signal bad news for beneficiaries counting on that money to get through the next few weeks and months. They’re also taking place within the larger context of a society that’s experiencing very conflicted views on how it wants to handle poverty, social need and joblessness. While some in the United States promote a supportive social safety net that works to help people get on their feet and reestablish their lives, others favor a more traditionalized “bootstrapping” approach, insisting that people should be encouraged to fend for themselves rather than being supported by the government. Critics have pointed out that the bootstrapping mentality can amount to a “war on the poor,” as many low-income people in the United States are not in an ideal position to rebuild their lives on their own.

These political tensions are at the root of many disputes in Congress and a larger social schism in the United States as the nation faces a crisis of conscience: what kind of country does it want to be?

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Photo credit: Kevin Burkett.

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237 comments

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2:11PM PST on Jan 7, 2014

Sarah thats jsut you guessing. If any kind of reaonable job opens they wlill take it.

4:51AM PST on Jan 7, 2014

The longer some receive unemployment, the longer they will go without a job.

How are we going to pay for all these unemployment benefits?

11:47AM PST on Jan 4, 2014

And what was the excuse BEFORE Obamacare Ellen??? What was the excuse while Bush was still in office and we were hemorrhaging jobs??? If you dodnt like whats written here then vote with your fingers and leave or at least stay out of this part of care2.

10:16PM PST on Jan 3, 2014

ObamaCare is not incentivizing companies to hire more people. The writer is a Democrat ideologue. Valerie Jarrett probably pays the salaries of the fake journalists spewing their propaganda all over this site.

12:09AM PST on Jan 1, 2014

Obama cant creagte jobs that congress wont let him create.

we are less rgulated and less taxed then we have been in decdes. True we dont pay as little in coprorate tax as china……which is what corps are bitching about. Well, I dodnt WANT to live like the chinese live or I would move there. They treat their people like cattle.

Profits are sky high…….the stock market is record breaking…..again. There is NO lack of money in the country. There is a lack of WILL to create jobs. The mentaility in woshingon is if it doesn’t turn a profit for someone (hopefully ttheir handlers) then we shouldnt be doing it at all. There is NO common good anymore. Its all about personal wealth.

Lower texes are not ging to create jobs or we would have a shitload of jobs. TRickle down isnt working because they see no reason to make it trickle down. BUSINESS creates jobs and todays business isnt interested in creating jobs as long as they are making massive profits by NOT hiring people. Obama has little to nothing to do with this problem.

10:47PM PST on Dec 31, 2013

The fault is the anti- Business, over regulating and overtaxing rules and regs of the President and his Democrat Party-
They have been in control of Washington for 5 years now and yet, sluggish job growth (except of course Government and healthcare jobs) and low wage jobs have been the result!
And this author blames the GOP?
The GOP hasn't been able to pass any thing it proposes what so ever so how in heavens name are they to blame?
Just pass anything the Dem;s want and rubber stamp it?
It is always is the mean old nasty GOP that takes the hit for Obama's disastrous economic policies that has stifled free enterprise, Not the GOP!
If the Dem's had their way these benefits paid by TAXPAYERS would have no time limit, looking for work rules or any accountability to the taxpayer that pays for this all-
Because the Democrat Party has never cared about those that foot the bill- All they care about is hooking folks on public assistance so they will vote for them to keep the gravy train coming!
As a Taxpayer I resent very much what the Democrat Party stands for- They don't give one twit about the money I send to Washington and owe me no accountability as to how it is spent!
All they want is to keep the free money flowing so the unemployed won't ever have to work again!
Government doesn't pay for these benefits, We do!
It ought to make you mad Obama has failed to produce the jobs he promised!

11:07AM PST on Dec 31, 2013

Thats all well and good Lone W but not everyone can find a job that pays enough to keep them from starving their famiy or losing their home. zStop judging people you dodnt know. Start judging the people who are running companies and refusuing to hire anyone as the economy has improved.

8:35AM PST on Dec 31, 2013

Unemployment benefits were designed to be a short term bridge solution not a two ro more years welfare measure. People need to try to work, period. Do any job. I have been unemployed twice for periods over a year. Not only did I not look for welfare, but I immediately took any job. Day by day jobs, week by week jobs. And I never failed my family in keeping a roof over them or food on their table.

Was it pleasant? Heck no! But I did everything on my own, and was rewarded eventually with great paying jobs. People saw that I would not give up and would always respond to a challenge. I have seen many women and men do the same and succeed. Several were even handycapped, and they did jsut as well.

So, it is hard for me to justifiy long-term welfare for people capable of working.

6:33AM PST on Dec 31, 2013

The republican party is to blame. They allow corporate welfare, allowing corporations to pay little to no taxes, while they make record profits. Republicans refuse to raise the $7.25 minimum wage forcing millions into poverty and food stamps, which we pay for through our taxes. After the republican imbecile Bush destroyed the country, with his wars based on lies, and tax breaks for the rich, creating our massive 17 trillion dollar debt, republicans have done nothing but shut the government down, block everything Obama tries to pass. Republicans want to destroy Medicare and Social Security to pay for our massive 17 trillion dollar debt which they created through their illegal wars, and tax breaks for the rich. This would force millions more into poverty. The average corporate CEO makes 354 times the average worker, and corporations are making record profits, while the 98% live in poverty. Republicans are all dirty crooks an liars, who have destroyed America, through their avarice, and selfishness.

10:47PM PST on Dec 30, 2013

The "pull themselves up by the bootstraps thing" is a BS smokescreen. The super rich talk about all those people getting "free stuff" while they pay 15% tax rate on Capitol gains, and get all kinds of tax breaks, subsidies and special favors from the government. The big banks borrow millions from the Fed at 0% interest, and those guilty of fraud during the last crisis pay a fat fine and write if off as a business expense. It's all about keeping regular people divided so we don't see the stealing going on.

Notice no one worried about how to pay for the trillions we have spent on the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. But when there's a true human need here at home for regular US citizens, that's when it's time to pinch the pennies

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