Although there is something to be said about fiscal responsibility, balancing the budget, pay-as-you-go legislating, and the national debt, there is also something to be said about those who are not in favor of unemployment extensions, that compensatory program that provides benefits to bridge the gap between periods of employment to those who lost their jobs through no fault of their own. Republicans like Sharron Angle, who is attempting to take Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s senate seat in November, has plainly stated that she believes that unemployment benefits have contributed to a “spoiled” and “entitled” working class. And she isn’t alone. Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona called unemployment extensions “disincentives” to individuals that should be looking for gainful employment. As was revealed by Greg Sargent at “The Plum Line,” there are two more Republicans that are in agreement with that sentiment.
Ron Johnson, the Republican challenger to Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI), told Wisconsin Public Television in June that he agreed with some anonymous Obama advisor that told the not-yet-President that the extension of unemployment benefits actually perpetuated unemployment. (That advisor has as yet to be identified.)
Johnson said, “When you continue to extend unemployment benefits, people really don’t have the incentive to go take other jobs. They’ll just wait the system out until their benefits run out, then they’ll go out and take, probably not as high paying jobs as they’d like to take, but that’s really how you have to get back to work. You have to take the work that’s available at the wage rates that’s available.”
Ron Johnson, who is backed by the Tea Party in his race against Senator Feingold, apparently believes a pervasive misconception about unemployment benefits recipients that has yet to be substantiated by any clinical study. But it is interesting to note that his views are nearly identical with those of Senator Kyl and senate seat contender Angle.
As are the views of Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina.
Burr, in an interview on C-Span in March, said,”The wrong thing to do is to automatically today extend unemployment for 12 months. I think that’s a discouragement to individuals that are out there to actually go out and go through the interviews.”
What Senator Burr leaves unsaid is that unemployment extensions are divided into four different Tiers and they aren’t “automatically” extended for 12 months. If that were true, then the last unemployment benefits package would have extended into next year, not to the end of May. Some states do have programs that do not expire for 99 weeks, but that if they are taken to their fullest extent and includes the 26 weeks of regular unemployment, plus the four Tiers, all of which have to be qualified for as the individual recipient reaches each Tier.
For those monitoring the progress of the Great Recession, it should be interesting to note that there is talk in Washington of not continuing unemployment extensions after November, the cut-off of the current bill of benefits extension that sits in Congress. Republicans, confident of winning several seats from the Democrats control in November, have been speaking of discontinuing the extensions altogether. With no significantly positive move in economy in sight, this could prove problematic to those who may not find a job by the end of November, not to mention the 99ers, those long-term unemployed that have been unable to find jobs past the date of their last benefits payout (not all of which went 99 weeks — some as few as the 26 weeks of regular unemployment).
Many Republican senators filibustered the current unemployment benefits extension bill for nearly two months. They voted as a solid bloc against passage of the bill and claimed that they opposed because it added to the national deficit (something they helped build to the tune of $5 trillion under the Bush administration) and that it should be paid for (actually a credible argument, but one that is belied by their past votes and the knowledge that emergency spending is exempt from pay/go legislation). As a Party, the Republican stance is that they are for unemployment extensions, but it is beginning to look as if that just may not be the position of many of the individual members.
And this could become a problem not only for the unemployed but for the struggling economy as well, because if the billions in unemployment are taken out of the economic equation, the ripple effect of the millions impacted by not getting the benefits they need to make necessary payments could push the economy into an even deeper recession. According to many economists, the Great Recession is just a nudge away from another Great Depression.
The Department of Labor estimates that there are currently 15 million unemployed in the United States. Nearly half that number are long-term unemployed, those that comprise recipients in the Tier extension system. The numbers are the highest they’ve been since the Department of Labor began tracking them in 1948.
Ron Johnson joins Sharron Angle in wanting to become a senator and discontinue or severely curtail the emergency unemployment benefits extensions. Senatorial hopeful for Alaska, Republican Joe Miller wants to discontinue them altogether, because he thinks they’re unconstitutional.
Those that are having difficulty finding employment while in the first 26 weeks of unemployment, those that could become one of the Tier recipients, those that are already in the Tier system, and those that have exhausted their eligibility (99ers) seem to be on the opposing side of many sitting Republican senators and some that want to be. If more Republicans gain Senate seats (and House of Representatives seats) in the November elections, the chances of unemployment extensions being passed becomes far more difficult, because no matter that there may be a few Republicans that agree with the necessity of unemployment extensions, there seems to be an undercurrent of sentiment that holds out for the idea that extension benefits also extends unemployment longevity.
C-Span via YouTube.com