At the end of this week, long-term benefits for the unemployed will end. A miserly Congress has said, Enough! No more benefits for those Americans struggling to stay afloat.
The logic (more like illogic) is straight out of Dickens: America’s jobless have had quite enough of life on the dole. Let’s shove them into the deep end and see if they’ll swim on their own.
One spokesman for this sink-or-swim mentality is Rand Paul, a Republican senator from Kentucky. “When you allow people to be on unemployment insurance for 99 weeks,” Paul says, “you’re causing them to become part of this perpetual unemployed group in our economy.”
A couple of points. The first is that the usual maximum for jobless benefits is closer to 73 weeks, not 99.
The other point is that there is a very real economic problem of enough jobs for potential workers.
In a technical sense, the Great Recession that began in 2007 ended in 2009. In a real sense, the fruits of the modest recovery aren’t being enjoyed by Americans in the 99 percent.
Income inequality is at its highest in 80 years.
Three Americans are vying for every one job opening.
Almost 20 percent of working-age American families live in poverty.
Into these hard times wades a Congress that has recently agreed to a budget compromise that cuts off long-term recipients of unemployment benefits, a figure that totals about 1.3 million Americans.
Republicans oppose the extension on principle. Democrats shrugged off those 1.3 million citizens in an effort to cut what they saw as a larger deal.
Where, you and Mr. Dickens might ask, are the legislative fixes to grow the economy and expand the number of jobs? Lost in a thicket of warring ideologies, of course.
The result leaves us with a non-strategy of doing nothing that would make Ebenezer Scrooge proud.