Relieve the unemployment pain now!

It was six weeks ago when funding for extended jobless benefits expired. By this Friday 2.5 million people will have lost federal aid that would have helped relieve their pain and keep their hope alive.

Now Congress is back after a 10-day Fourth of July vacation and it looks like those 2.5 million people will have to wait at least until next week before there is even a chance of any relief.

The hope is that next week, when a new senator from West Virginia is expected to be seated, he will provide the 60th vote Democrats need under Senate rules to move the measure forward.

Two Republicans, Maine’s Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, sided with the Democrats last month, while Democrat Ben Nelson of Nebraska voted with the GOP. If the Maine Republicans stay on board the deadlock can be broken.

President Obama, despite vicious attacks from the right against all his policies, has held firm in his support for an extension of unemployment benefits.

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, supports the extension.

A majority of the members of the House support the extension.

The majority leader of the Senate supports the extension.

A majority of the members of the Senate support the extension. Yet a minority can block it.

Speaking for the GOP obstructionists, Orin Hatch of Utah, back in Washington after his vacation, sounded like he had come back from a visit to outer space. “I didn’t hear a word back home about this. People in Utah are independent. They’re more concerned about deficit spending and how this country is going bankrupt.”

The reality, of course, is that unemployment insurance extension is one of the best things that can be done right now to help the economy. “People who get that money will spend it immediately,” said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md. The extension will, itself, amount to a jobs program.

In any case, it is clear to anyone with common sense that millions of Americans remain unemployed because the jobs aren’t there – not because they aren’t trying hard enough to find them. There are 4 million jobs available today. There are 18 million officially unemployed. Almost anyone can do that math.

And what none of the Republicans in government will admit is that the unemployed are so desperate for work that they are accepting lower wages in order to find a job. Other workers are accepting lower wages just to hold onto the jobs they have now. Weekly paychecks in June were down at an annualized rate of 4.5 percent. All this, while the New York Times reports that executive search firms are offering annual salaries of more than $1 million.

Right-wing bloggers who claim the jobless would rather collect inadequate benefit checks than a good salary are, at best, living on the same distant planet as some of their Republican lawmaker friends.

Here on earth we need, more than anything else right now, an extension of unemployment benefits and a massive jobs program to put the many millions out of work  back to work. Contact your senators.

Photo: cc 2.0



PW Editorial Board
PW Editorial Board

People’s World editorial board: Editor-in-Chief John Wojcik,  Managing Editor C.J. Atkins, Copy Editor Eric A. Gordon, Washington D.C. Bureau Chief Mark Gruenberg, Social Media Editor Chauncey K. Robinson, Senior Editor Roberta Wood, Senior Editor Joe Sims