With the U.S. House of Repre- sentatives adjourned for the Christmas holidays, more than 1 million Americans will find lumps of coal in their stockings.
That’s because the Republican-led House refused to extend unemployment benefits that expire Dec. 28. At least 1.3 million people, many of them victims of the national economic recession that began as former Republican President George W. Bush was leaving office in 2008, will be affected.
President Barack Obama and Democrats in the House and Senate had urged Speaker John Boehner to allow a floor vote for a bill extending the federal unemployment benefits.
Boehner refused and sent the representatives home for Christmas.
So, while members of Congress will be celebrating with family and friends and toasting the new year, Americans who have been struggling to make ends meet because of the tight job market will be left to mull the uncertainty that the loss of benefits will bring.
Prior to adjournment, 186 Democrats in the House signed a letter to the speaker urging him to allow a vote on the benefits-extension measure.
“As it stands now, three days after Christmas, 1.3 million Americans will lose the unemployment insurance if the House does not act,” Congressman Tim Ryan of Howland, D-13th, said in a statement last week. “Speaker Boehner and House Republicans must realize that people still have to pay for gas, groceries, and mortgages. Going home for the holidays without passing this critical legislation at a time when so many are in need is callous and un-American.”
Unfortunately, there’s a growing perception in this country that Americans receiving unemployment benefits are lazy bums who just don’t want to work. Conservative talk radio and mindless chatter on cable news shows are largely responsible for this attitude.
However, respected journalists and news-paper columnists have made it clear that there aren’t millions of our fellow men and women trying to game the system.
“There are no jobs,” Joan Boudro, a Republican who lost her job as an administrative assistant nearly three year ago, told National Public Radio. “And that’s where the big problem is: There are not enough jobs to go around.”
Boudro has found only temporary work for a few months at a time, NPR reported. She has been relying on the extended unemployment benefits that the federal government has been offering since the beginning of the recession. She has received $363 a week, much less than she used to earn, the public radio service reported.
The truth about the current unemployment situation can be found in a column printed last Friday in The Vindicator’s Editorial Page. It was written by Ruth Marcus, a veteran nationally syndicated columnist.
Just the facts
The facts presented by Marcus should silence the critics and other self-proclaimed experts on the economy. But they won’t.
For instance, here’s what she wrote about the duration of jobless benefits: “ ... the longest combined state and federal benefits can now last is 73 weeks, and then only in three states where unemployment has hovered above 9 percent. Elsewhere, depending on the severity of unemployment, the maximum duration is between 40 and 66 weeks.” That’s a far cry from the 99 weeks opponents of extending jobless benefits have used to bolster their argument.
The Republicans own the pain and suffering that will be experienced by more than 1 million Americans. Fortunately, Democrats aren’t giving up the fight and will take up the issue when Congress returns after the holidays.