28 June 2010

Americans Want More, Not Less, Government on Economic Issues

A major new nationwide poll conducted by Lake Research Partners for the Center for Community Change and the Ms. Foundation for Women shows that a majority of Americans are less concerned about the federal budget deficit than they are about rising health care costs, the lack of jobs with family-sustaining wages, and the affordability of every day expenses like food and gas.

And, not surprisingly, those hit hardest by the recession are those who believe most strongly that the government needs to play a more prominent role in protecting the economic interests of the many, not the few: 66 percent of African-American women and 68 percent of Latinas want increased government intervention. In April, unemployment reached 13.7 percent among African-American women and 11.1 percent for Latinas. And three out of four people surveyed said they believe policies that would create more jobs with decent wages and benefits for low-income families are important to them personally.

Things, it seems, are getting more personal by the moment: just two days from now, more than a million Americans will find themselves facing the end of their health and unemployment benefits -- unless congress takes immediate action to ensure a reprieve.

Legislation put forward by Democratic congressional leaders late last week would have provided more than $35.5 billion in funding to extend unemployment insurance for 1.2 million jobless Americans, as well as an extension of critical COBRA subsidies that have put health insurance within reach for many who have lost their jobs.

But House Republicans have quashed multiple versions of the bill, fearing the impact of its cost on an already ballooning national deficit.

As a result, it now looks as if millions of families that are already struggling to make ends meet will be facing a more difficult future in the days to come. Moreover, the move to cutoff funding flies directly in the face of what our new poll indicates: that the majority of Americans actually want government to take a larger and stronger role in making the economy work for average Americans.

Legislation like the tax-bill currently languishing in congress is but one small step in the direction of helping hard-hit communities meet some portion of their needs; real reform would go further, addressing the deep and systemic inequalities that have left already struggling communities decimated as a result of this recession. But at least it's a step of some kind. Allowing another 1.2 million Americans to fall between the cracks in our political system is, at best, an illogical approach to stimulating this fragile economy -- and, at worst, suicidal. The clock is ticking. Congress must act before it's too late, and do what Americans want them to do: take a strong hand in building a better economic future for us all.

You can take action too: sign Ms. Foundation grantee The National Women's Law Center's petition urging senators to support struggling families by extending unemployment benefits.

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