Why The Lame Duck Congress Must Extend Jobless Benefits For Hard-Hit Families But Not Tax Cuts For The Rich

America's long-term unemployed -- an estimated 4 million or more --
constitute the single newest and biggest social problem facing America.

Now their unemployment benefits are about to run out, and the
lame-duck Congress may not have the votes to extend them. (You can
forget about the next Congress.)

The long-term unemployed can't get work because there are still five
people needing work for every job opening. And the long-term jobless are
often at the end of the job line: Either they don't have the right
skills or enough eduction, or have been out of work so long prospective
employers are nervous about hiring them.

They're also a big problem for the economy. Without enough money in
their pockets, they and their families can't pay their mortgages, which
keeps fueling the mortgage crisis. Nor can they replace worn-out cars
and clothing, or buy muchof anything else, which is a drag on the

Republicans and many blue-dog Dems say we can't afford another extension.

But these are many of the same people who say we should extend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy for at least another two years.

Extending the Bush tax cuts for the top 1 percent would cost an
estimated $120 billion over the next two years. That's more than another
unemployment benefit extension would cost.

The unemployed need the money. The rich don't.

Moreover, the top 1 percent spends a small fraction of their income.
That's what it means to be rich -- you already have most of what you
want. So extending the Bush tax cut to them won't stimulate the economy.

Yet people without jobs, and their families, are likely to spend
every penny of unemployment benefits they receive. That will go back
into the economy and save or create jobs.

A Labor Department report shows that for every $1 spent on
unemployment insurance, $2 are spent in the economy. If you don't
believe the Labor Department, maybe you'll believe Goldman Sachs analyst
Alec Phillips, who estimates that if unemployment benefits are allowed
to expire, the American economy would slow by a half a percent.

Republicans are still spouting nutty Social Darwinism. Cutting taxes
on the rich is better than helping the unemployed, they say, because the
rich will create jobs with their extra money while giving money to the
unemployed reduces their desire to look for work.

Rubbish. The Bush tax cuts on the top never trickled down. Between
2002 and 2007 the median wage dropped, adjusted for inflation. And job
growth was pathetic.

Jobless benefits don't deter the unemployed from finding work. In
most states, unemployment benefits are a fraction of former wages. And
as long as unemployment remains sky-high, there are no jobs to be had

Besides, the economic downturn was hardly their fault. If anyone is
to blame it's the high-flyers on Wall Street who gambled away other
people's money, and the rich denizens of corporate executive suites who
have sliced payrolls in order to show higher profits (and get more money
from their stock options).

So why reward the people at the top with an extension of the Bush tax
cut that will blow a hole in the budget deficit? And why fail to extend
jobless benefits to hardworking Americans who got the boot?

Quick action is needed. Jobless benefits begin to lapse in just two
weeks. Two million unemployed workers will be affected. If Congress
fails to act, another 1.2 million will stop receiving benefits by the
end of December. Most of the rest of those who now receive federal
emergency extended benefits will gradually lose them.

Don't extend the Bush tax cuts to the wealthy. Give unemployment benefits to people who need them.

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