One point three million people have lost their unemployment benefits. Americans who have been out of work for six months or longer are suddenly without the vital lifeline that kept them from ending up homeless and hungry. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said that extending these benefits will be a priority when Congress returns on January 6th, but some Republicans are already indicating they may try to block an extension.
If those on the Right keep long-term unemployment from being reauthorized, another 850,000 Americans will find themselves without financial support within the next three months. The current unemployment cuts alone may cost our economy as much as 0.4 percent of our GDP, and that number will only get larger as more Americans loose their financial assistance. And, these cuts won’t save taxpayers any money, as our government will have to dramatically increase spending on programs like food stamps and housing assistance as more people have no where else to turn. If Congress doesn’t act fast, more Americans will soon find themselves without any income, and many could wind up on the street.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, without this meager financial assistance, out-of-work Americans will no longer be able to contribute anything to their local economies. That, in turn, can pose a serious risk to our modest economic recovery. Allowing unemployment benefits to expire isn’t just immoral and un-American, it’s also a bad idea for our nation as a whole. We shouldn’t be imposing more austerity – we should be investing in our nation. And, our government should step in as the employer of last resort. If Republicans really want to lower spending on unemployment benefits – the answer is not slashing aid – it’s helping out-of-work Americans find a job.