Extended unemployment benefits on the line (again)

EXTENDED UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS ON THE LINE (AGAIN)…. In economic conditions like these, Congress has never failed to extend unemployment benefits. But with the Republican Party never having been this uniformly conservative before, and with the Senate no longer operating by majority rule, an extension that would need to pass in the lame-duck session is very much in doubt.

The consequences for struggling Americans matter.

More than 1.2 million people would have their federal unemployment payments curtailed next month if Congress fails to renew jobless benefits when it returns to work following the midterm elections, according to a report released Friday.

The report by the National Employment Law Project, a workers’ advocacy group, said that suspension of benefits would financially cripple people, many of whom are barely subsisting on unemployment payments that average $290 a week.

Christine Owens, executive director of the NELP, said today, “Over one million workers will be cut off unemployment insurance in just one month, starting November, unless Congress continues the federal emergency extensions for jobless Americans. These are people who have been laid off through no fault of their own and are desperately looking for jobs, but would be snapped from the lifeline of jobless benefits just as holiday season kicks into high gear.”

For Republicans, who’ve suggested that those struggling to find work in the midst of a jobs crisis are lazy and quite possibly drug addicts, this isn’t cause for concern. Indeed, while the GOP has repeatedly demanded that trillions of dollars in an additional debt is entirely acceptable when it’s tax cuts on the line, the same Republican officials have said aid to the unemployed shouldn’t even get an up-or-down vote unless they’re fully paid for (at which point much of the GOP will vote against the benefits anyway).

Now, you might be thinking, “But wait, won’t this be awful for the economy? If more than 1.2 million people lose their benefits, which they invariably spend, won’t this mean hardship for those families compounded by less economic activity for everyone else?”

And if that is what you’re thinking, you probably aren’t going to enjoy the next Congress very much.

Of course, if everyone who’s lost their job, or are worried they might lose their job, were to vote in the midterms for candidates most likely to look out for them, this wouldn’t be much of a problem. But given that such turnout is unlikely, Congress’ ability to extend these benefits very likely won’t come together.