The Next Fight: Extending Unemployment Insurance

Now that the much-ado-about-nothing Super Committee is behind us, it’s time to get serious. The real crisis in this country is jobs. It’s unacceptable that Washington isn’t focusing all of its time and energy on tackling it. It’s unacceptable that 9% of people are unemployed, that millions more are under-employed or discouraged from the work force, that there are more than 4 job seekers for every opening, and 42% of the unemployed have been out of work 6 months or more.

And what’s really galling is that extended unemployment insurance benefits are set to expire at the year. That means a sizable drop in consumer spending—in practical terms, less money in the pockets of millions of people, hurting their ability to stay in their homes, support businesses and feed their families. Millions are living without real economic security, and in many cases unemployment insurance in the only thing keeping them afloat.

As the New York TimesBinyamin Appelbaum notes on Twitter, GDP growth has stayed stubbornly low this year, such that it’s not much bigger than the economic impact of the payroll tax cuts and extended unemployment benefits. Put more simply: these soon-to-expire policies are just about the only thing standing between our economy and utter stagnation or recession.

One study, by the Economic Policy Institute, estimates that the hit to the economy from failure to extend unemployment insurance would cost us half a million jobs. (They also have more detailed numbers on the job loss it would cause state-by-state.) That’s definitely not what we need right now.

The extension of unemployment insurance is one of the 9 Demands of the 99 Percent, and it’s an urgent one. We’ll be fighting in the coming weeks to make sure we can get an extension passed.

So far this fall, Republicans in the Senate, operating from the minority, have blocked bills on multiple occasions that would put hundreds of thousands of people back to work—while the House hasn’t taken up these jobs bills at all. (Instead of actual jobs proposals, the House leadership is trying to sell meaningless resolutions, favors to big banks and special assistance to companies that outsource jobs as “jobs bills.”) And in state capitals, new governors are kicking people out of vital jobs in education and public safety, another drag on the job market.

So as the unemployment insurance extension nears its expiration, will they kill another half a million jobs by blocking its renewal?

Photo by @jbtaylor on Flickr, via Creative Commons

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