Republicans Pull the Plug, Jobless Help Dies

At the stroke of midnight last night, some 800,000 workers who have been looking for jobs for more than six months lost their unemployment insurance (UI)—2 million will be without help by the end of December. Why? Because congressional Republicans have chosen to side with the nation’s millionaires instead of the jobless.

They chose to extend the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy as their top priority this lame-duck session and essentially have told workers struggling to find work in an economy with five job hunters for every opening: “Tough luck. Happy holidays.”

Click here for the latest count on the number of jobless workers who have lost their unemployment insurance since Republicans let the program die.

Before leaving for the Thanksgiving recess, Republicans blocked a move in the U.S. House that would have maintained the extended benefits program through February. On Monday, Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) introduced legislation to maintain the UI lifeline for a full year. But last night, Republicans used Senate rules to block a vote on the bill. Earlier Baucus said:

These benefits help millions of Americans put food on the table and roofs over their heads—pumping money into our economy and helping to create jobs. Continuing the program for a year will provide the certainty our economy and these Americans looking for work need.

Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill) claimed the benefit extension would be “misguided” but the tax cut should be handed over to millionaires “no matter what” the effect on the nation’s budget.

Today on Capitol Hill, about 100 jobless workers from across the nation will lobby for the one-year extension. They will be joined by AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and other lawmakers. Harkin says

Currently, the national unemployment rate is 9.6 percent. At the current rate, without a reauthorization, we would cut the lifeline that millions of Americans use to stay afloat. Equally importantly, we would endanger our fragile economic recovery by reducing the amount Americans spend on groceries, utilities and other basic needs.

Yesterday, in a letter to President Obama and Democratic and Republican congressional leaders, Economic Policy Institute (EPI) President Larry Mishel and 33 other leading economists urged swift action “for the good of the economy and the well-being of millions of deserving Americans who depend on them.”

In a statement with the letter, the economists say maintaining the UI program is:

  • sensible economic policy that will not only assist the unemployed but help maintain spending, overall demand and employment at this critical point in the recovery. Eliminating these benefits, on the other hand, will cause hardship for the long-term unemployed, scale back spending and weaken the economy since unemployment benefits are one of the most effective means available to support overall demand.

Click here to sign a petition urging Congress to maintain the UI program for the long-term jobless workers. Click here to see our counter of how many workers have lost their unemployment benefits and share it with your friends. We urge you to post it on Facebook, tweet it and embed the counter to your blog or website. Mark your calendar for a Dec. 7 day of online solidarity with America’s long-term jobless workers.

by Mike Hall, Dec 1, 2010, Reprinted from AFL-CIO News Blog Now