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Two Million – That’s the Number of the Month

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President-Congressional Leaders

On Jan 2, just a couple of days away, two million unemployed workers will lose their minimal ability to pay their bills. Unless Congress reaches a deal, on Tuesday, Jan 2, two million families will lose their unemployment compensation.

That’s two million American families without any income because both Congress failed them and our capitalist system is unable to create enough jobs at present.

If this circumstance doesn’t sicken you, then I’m left wondering about your compassion, common religious tenets, (i.e., Christianity), and moral values.

Americans like to talk about human values and even condemn other countries for their failures on Human Rights. But is not Congress, led by a Republican House and a Republican filibustering Senate, now just as guilty of devaluing human lives through their often demonetization of the unemployed as lazy, drug addled takers and their inability to do their Congressional job to resolve the fiscal cliff?

Just today, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell asked what other non-defense discretionary budget cuts were going to pay for an extension in unemployment. I can almost hear Old Scrooge saying, “Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?”

What kind of society have we become?

Only since Obama became president has the GOP demanded that unemployment benefits be paid for with cuts to other parts of the non-defense discretionary budget which has already taken an enormous hit and is at historic lows.

Discretionary Spending

But we all know those facts. We also know that unemployment benefits provide the biggest boost to the economy as that money is immediately spent in the economy on food, housing, utilities and other necessary living expenses.

Perhaps what is lesser known are three additional facts:

  • Failing to extend unemployment benefits, according to the CBO, would decrease GDP by 0.5% – or $750 billion.
  • Extending unemployment would add, again according to the CBO, would add another 300,000 jobs to the economy.
  • The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) says every $1 of unemployment insurance benefit grows the total economy by $1.10. And every $1 million of the benefit adds six new American jobs. Moreover, unemployment insurance has more economic impact than many other spending proposals according to the CBO.

In other words, for a mere fraction of the cost American taxpayers spend through the tax system to banks, private equity carve outs, and other corporate entities, extended unemployment benefits would increase jobs and GDP as well as save two million families from absolutely no income on which to live.

Perhaps I’m old fashioned or learned too well the religious lessons of my childhood, but I simply cannot accept the idea – and the selfish, self-centered ideology behind it – that we should allow our neighbors, and their children, go hungry or lose their housing because we, the richest nation on earth with a better than $15 trillion economy, are too cheap to help these families as we’ve always done since UI was enacted decades ago.

What would such a lapse, or the price to other important responsibilities for the nation, have to say about our moral fiber as Americans? It seems to me Winthrop’s “Shining City on the Hill” will have become a shadow, a mere ghost of what has been and could continue to be.

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Written by Valerie Curl

December 29, 2012 at 9:49 AM

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