23 November 2010

Groundhog Day? Don't Let Congress Delay Unemployment Benefits Again

Thanksgiving Day? How about Groundhog Day? Last week, the House failed to extend emergency unemployment benefits, reviving the familiar, inherently flawed deficit vs. economic stimulus and safety-net debate. If no positive action is taken, beginning in December, millions of jobless people will be without this critical assistance, impacting individuals, families and the entire economy. Meanwhile, the possibility of reestablishing tax cuts for the rich once they expire at the end of 2010 still seems to be in play. And all of this against the backdrop of the highest corporate quarterly profit ratings in at least sixty years. Isn't it obvious who is really hurting in all of this?

The hypocrisy, to say the least, is mind-blowing. Preserving the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy has been framed as an effort to protect the common person (also known as the "small business owner"), while programs and policies that actually would protect poor, low- and middle-income people struggling to survive the ongoing economic crisis are slashed. In truth, emergency unemployment insurance prevents a significant number of people from joining the ranks of the poor while also stimulating economic growth. A wealth of research compiled by the National Women's Law Center, a Ms. Foundation grantee, backs these claims and helps call the conservatives' bluff. For example:
  • Last Wednesday, the Congressional Budget Office reported that the national 14.3 percent poverty rate in 2009 would have been 15.4 percent without unemployment insurance benefits, a poverty level not seen since the 1960s.
  • A study commissioned (ironically) by the most recent Bush Administration reported that every dollar spent on unemployment insurance results in an increase in economic activity of two dollars.
  • The Economic Policy Institute, in its "What would you do with $67 billion? Three alternatives to giving it to the rich," [pdf] concluded that extending emergency unemployment insurance would generate roughly 5.0 times as many jobs in 2011 and 2012 as would be created by an extension of the upper-income tax cuts.
The facts speak for themselves: renewing emergency unemployment insurance is just common sense. Take action today to demand that Congress extend it before millions of jobless workers -- many of them women, who make up a rapidly growing percentage of the long-term unemployed -- lose this critical benefit and face even greater economic insecurity. And those tax cuts? The Economic Policy Institute -- and plenty of our grantees -- have some better ideas.

Today, urge Congress to celebrate Thanksgiving Day, not Groundhog Day.

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