The 2010 Unemployment Extension Bill is in quasi-stasis, caught between ideology and a hard place in the U. S. Senate. It exists only as a potentiality.
According to CNN, 38 Republicans, one Democrat, and an Independent voted for continued debate on the 2010 Unemployment Extension Bill on Thursday, thereby suspending passage of the actual bill itself, those that the bill would retroactively help (unemployment benefits recipients that stood to lose their benefits starting at the beginning of June) were put on hold. “Hold” is something most Americans facing this seemingly never-ending “Great Recession” can little afford.
The 2010 Unemployment Extension Bill is designed to extend unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed through November. The hard, cold numbers reflect that there are going to be at least a million individuals without unemployment benefits (because their 99 weeks of eligibility have expired) by the first week in July, if the Senate does not pass some version of the 2010 Unemployment Extension Bill. What those numbers do not reflect are the cold, hard truths of the hundreds of thousands who will join the ranks of the unemployed in the the next few weeks, the hundreds of thousands — even millions — who stand to lose their benefits in the coming weeks through November, and the collateral damage the non-passage of the measure will produce.
Some might believe that using the term “collateral damage” borders on the sensational, but no one seems to consider that those on the unemployment rolls are anything other than single individuals. But, many of the unemployed aren’t single. Many are single parents with sometimes more than one child and a household to maintain. Many are also long-term unemployed whose applications and resumes for work now reflect the increasingly large number of time away from gainful employment, something many employers view with suspicion or concern. The inability to find work, exacerbated by the sluggish economy, places many of the long-term unemployed in positions where, try as they might, work isn’t to be found, and, if it is, it is usually not at a payscale many were accustomed to before they lost their jobs.
In short, if the average employed individual lost his job and began receiving unemployment benefits, he and his families would have 99 weeks for that individual to become gainfully employed again, hopefully at a workplace that pays the individual a wage that is commensurate with his former job, thereby not increasing the expenditures-to-wage ratio. But, in that 99 weeks, said individual must adjust his former lifestyle to meet an income equal to 36 percent of his former paycheck.
And, while the amount of money coming into the individual’s household has decreased by 64 percent, the bills, even if the only bills the individual had were basic utilities and mortgage/rent, do not. Although families can and do sign up for government assistance with regard to food (i.e. food stamps and other programs) and medical treatment (Medicaid, et. al.), the individual’s children still need clothing, school supplies, and a host of other things that require money. Other pieces of collateral damage include maintaining a household (household products, wear-and-tear fixes, etc.), and maintaining a vehicle (gas, oil, parts, etc.).
According to the U. S. Department of Labor, there were 9.7 million formerly employed individuals who were receiving a weekly check via the government in May due to unemployment taxes paid while they were employed. Of those 9.7 million, 300,000 lost their benefits in the first week of June. At least another 900,000 are estimated to lose their benefits by the first week of July. At the same time, more people are being down-sized, laid off, or are becoming unemployed due to businesses going bankrupt or assimilated by other companies. The unemployed are in limbo in more ways than one: They not only are jobless, or forced to work temporary jobs until they find gainful employment, but those who stand to lose their unemployment benefits from June onward have no clue whether or not the Senate will ever come to an agreement on the 2010 Unemployment Extension Bill.
At the same time, thousands stand to lose their benefits in the coming months without passage of the bill. More join the ranks of the unemployed, those who are eligible for benefits, on a daily basis. But, the long-term unemployed (27 weeks or more on unemployment), who stand at nearly 50 percent of the total number of unemployment recipients (9.7 million), are those most at risk.
So, what do they do? Many will become part of the welfare state, living off of various government assistance programs until they can find work. Many will do this as a last resort, spending life savings, cashing in insurance policies, and other means of acquiring money (including taking on several low-paying jobs) before finally signing up for government assistance, attempting to forestall what many consider a blow to pride and a source of public and private stigma. Many will lose their homes, their vehicles, default on various loans, and be forced to accommodate a far more frugal lifestyle than they were accustomed to before they became unemployed.
There are an estimated 15 million people unemployed, two-thirds of whom are receiving benefits. The other 5.3 million are getting by, many with some kind of government assistance.
Every Republican senator who voted did so to continue debate on the 2010 Unemployment Extension Bill. Not one Republican senator voted in favor of a final vote on the extension. The consensus reasoning was that it would increase the national debt, a number that has topped the $13 trillion mark. At the same time, Republican senators have voted for untold special interest projects, military expenditures, earmarks, and exorbitant bailouts that will increase the national deficit by an astronomical amount in the coming years.
Voting to continue debating the 2010 Unemployment Extension Bill and/or voting it down amount to nearly the same thing to those whose unemployment benefits have been suspended. They are now forced to make decisions that will have life-altering ramifications. And, while the millionaire Republicans who make nearly $175,000 per year via taxpayer dollars quibble over increasing an astronomical number that affects the average citizen only in an abstract way, that same average citizen is being affected in the most tangible ways.
To make matters worse, the Senate failed to come to a compromise on Friday as well. Democratic senator Harry Reid (NV) attempted to push through several provisions via standalone vote (where the measure only needs a unanimous decision to carry). On the 2010 Unemployment Extension provision, Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell objected.
Although the national deficit is an important consideration, it is a number that many do not understand. Many of the unemployed not only do not understand the national debt, they do not understand how the cold numbers of future national debt outweighs the needs of the millions of Americans in need of assistance in the present. Republican senators might want to consider that their stand for national financial responsibility might result in many of them becoming senatorial collateral damage in November.