As part of Republican obstruction-at-any-cost election year strategy, Senate Republicans last week once again blocked an extension of unemployment insurance (UI) benefits for long-term jobless workers. The UI extension is part of the jobs bill that could help put the unemployed back to work.
Some Republicans even said it's time for "tough love" to motivate the long-term jobless.
Granted, they are far removed from the day-to-day economic reality of America's workers. So here's a reminder: Today, in the United States, there are five unemployed workers for every job opening, an unemployment rate near 10 percent, at least 15 million people out of work and 6.8 million people out of work for 27 weeks or more. Getting a job is not like going down to the corner for a quart of milk.
Heck, when you still get your taxpayer-funded, congressional paycheck every week ($3,346.15) for not doing very much work, it can certainly alter your view of the economy—even to the point where some Republican politicos actually claim the not quite $300 a week average unemployment check is a "disincentive" for the unemployed to get out of the door and look for work.
Maybe senators think that when the men and women who have been out of work since at least before Thanksgiving (and millions for more than one year) get that bountiful UI check, they sit around the kitchen table and make big plans to spend that dough.
Hey, hon got my check. This sure beats working. What do you say we go to Palm Springs this weekend? We can fly the kids to your mom's and board the dogs at that new spa kennel.
No, senator, the response to a couple hundred bucks a week goes more like this:
Maybe we should think about gassing up the car so we can go down to the food bank and set something aside for your blood pressure medicine. Oh, and there's that foreclosure notice we need to deal with.
Each time Senate Democratic leaders have brought up a UI extension this year, Republicans have delayed and blocked the bill. With the extended UI program set to expire at the end of May, the House passed its jobs bill with a UI extension just before Memorial Day but the Senate left town for vacation and didn't act on the bill. As a result, some 1 million workers who have been out of work for more than a year—remember, one job opening for every five unemployed workers—have no UI.
Along with the incredibly insensitive and out-of-touch "tough love theory," some lawmakers are hiding behind deficit hysteria, even though three-quarters of voters say extending unemployment insurance is more important than reducing the deficit.