Monday, May 5, 2008

Extend Unemployment Benefits

The nation lost an additional 20,000 thousand jobs in April.

Most industries shed jobs last month, as has been the case since last November..

Notably, construction losses have spread from residential housing—reflecting the deep weakness in that sector—to non-residential building, which is also now on a consistent downtrend. Since the peak in construction employment in September 2006, the sector has shed almost 460,000 jobs.

Factory employment continues to slide, despite the export-boosting effect of the weaker dollar. In fact, the decline of 43,000 jobs in durable manufacturing (heavy industry) last month was the largest monthly loss since July 2003.

Almost 3 million unemployed workers have exhausted their benefits.

Another 5.2 million are employed part-time because they cannot find full time work, an increase of 850,000 from a year ago.

Wisconsin recorded the 3rd highest number of mass layoffs over the past year. And that was before Harley Davidson, General Motors/Janesville and Midwest Express announced layoffs.

When the original stimulus package was passed, President Bush refused to support extending unemployment benefits because his domestic policy agenda is limited to tax cuts, tax cuts, tax cuts.

Recall Mr. Bush originally campaigned that upper income tax cuts were justified by the nation's projected $5.2 trillion surplus.

When the recession began in March, 2001, shortly after he took office, the diagnosis had changed, but not Dr. Bush's medicine. Again the solution was high end tax cuts. The eventual $1.3 trillion tax cut was arrived at by taking 25% of the projected surplus despite the fact that it was disappearing in a sea of red ink.

As late as May of that year, when gas prices began to rise, President Bush's only solution was, you guessed it, upper income tax cuts.

Now unemployed workers are being held hostage to the President's supply side ideology.

In an editorial today the New York Times writes: "What is needed — now — is for Congress to extend jobless benefits for people who exhaust their initial 26 weeks of payments. Research is unequivocal that bolstered jobless benefits are more effective stimulus than tax rebates. They also have the advantage of being targeted to people in need...

Congress erred by not extending unemployment benefits in last February’s stimulus package. Lawmakers and Mr. Bush now have a second chance to fix that mistake. They must not squander it."

Congress must act now.

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