As the unemployment crisis continues on, those left jobless have had to make a living on meager unemployment insurance provided by the government. Many of these people are the long-term unemployed, who lost jobs during the initial drop and have been living on a small fraction of their previous income while trying to find a new job. If Congress, though, doesn’t act soon, two million of the long-term unemployed are going to lose their last lifeline. Lawmakers have until the end of the year, but given their penchant for not doing anything to help anyone (except bankers!), the odds aren’t looking great.
There are several reasons why unemployment insurance is necessary, especially during an extended jobs drought. Most importantly, though, with new hires stagnating and the number of unemployed people per job opening still above 4, most people who are looking for jobs are completely unable to find them. This means that the insurance is going to people who are very reasonably trying to find work, but cannot because there simply aren’t enough jobs for the unemployed. Of course, their search for jobs is worsened by discrimination against the unemployed, which is rampant in hiring practices.
Though some conservatives argue that unemployment benefits provide incentives for the unemployed to remain unemployed, this is patently absurd in the kind of recession we’re living in today. As Nobel prize-winning economist Paul Krugman said in 2010 — and is still true today — “anyone who thinks that high unemployment in the first quarter of 2010 has anything to do with workers getting excessively generous benefits must not get out much.”
This gets back to the point at hand — anyone who does get out knows that people are desperate for jobs. And if Congress continues to twiddle its thumbs, two million of those people who are actively trying to find a way to support their family will lose the last source of income they have. This means that those families that rely on unemployment insurance income will likely fall into poverty, like so many Americans have recently.
It’s time for Washington to have some compassion and stand with those who have actually had to suffer in the recession. Not just bankers who are unhappy with half-a-million dollar salaries.
Photo from bytemark via flickr.