Yesterday, the United States Senate finally mustered the 60 votes required to extend unemployment (UC) benefits to the 2.1 million Americans who had run out them.
This vote tells you all you need to know about the priorities of the Republicans who almost unanimously opposed providing the extension.
Fifteen million Americans are officially unemployed. If you include those who have dropped out of the labor market and involuntary part-time workers, the number soars to 23 million. Almost half, a record number, are considered long-term unemployed, having been out of work for six months or more. There are currently more than five people looking for work for every job opening.
But the Republican Senate leadership and all but two Republican Senators voted against extending unemployment benefits to the nation’s 2.1 million unemployed workers who had exhausted their benefits. Many, like Wisconsin Republican Senate candidate Ron Johnson, outrageously claim that providing the unemployed with benefits they have paid for and earned while working encourages them to remain unemployed.
The Republican hypocrisy is breathtaking.
While opposing the unemployment benefits extension as too expensive, they continue to push for legislation that would make the Bush era tax cuts, 50% of which went to the richest 1% of taxpayers, permanent.
The cost of extending unemployment benefits is $34 billion dollars. The cost of extending the tax cuts, $3 trillion over the next ten years!
The Bush tax cuts were originally sold as affordable because of a projected $5.4 trillion surplus. By the time they were passed in the spring of 2001, the rational had change. The $1.3 trillion tax cut was justified as the way to jump-start the economy that had plunged into recession in March 2001.
The tax cuts proved a very ineffective form of stimulus since the main beneficiaries of the cuts, those averaging $900,000 a year, were reluctant to spend their windfall. Unemployment benefits, on the other hand, are one of the most effective forms of stimulus because the unemployed immediately spend the money they receive. That’s why unemployment benefits are called an automatic stabilizer.
So the proposal to extend UC benefits is a twofer. It will help more than two million folks who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own and it will stimulate the struggling economy.
But that’s not good enough for the Republicans. Claiming to be concerned about the deficit, they say we need to curtail spending that assists working and middle class Americans. Extending unemployment benefits, funding mine, food, toy inspections and Social Security are too just expensive they claim.
In their world the nation simply cannot afford to regulate oil companies like BP, mining companies like Massey Energy and private banks like Goldman Sachs. But it is not to expensive to bail out banks, make upper income tax cuts permanent or maintain tax loopholes that allow hedge fund and private equity operators to pay tax rates at less than half the rate that working Americans pay and cost the nation $20 billion annually.
Let’s be honest. The Republicans aren’t concerned about you, your job or your paycheck. Nor are they concerned about the deficit. Their real interest is ensuring that unemployment remains high, depressing wages and enriching their cronies. That explains why they oppose extending unemployment benefits, proposals to prevent the layoffs of police, firemen and teachers and efforts to create public sector jobs. \
All of us should remember this come November.