The Unemployed Are Teetering on the Edge of the Fiscal Cliff

December 3, 2012 in From the Director, Homepage by Rick Sloan

In less than four weeks, unless Congress takes action, two million jobless Americans will lose their unemployment benefits.

This would be a travesty. America’s economic recovery is still sluggish. Private sector job growth — while encouragingly positive for the last several months — hasn’t been nearly fast enough to meet the mounting demand for work. Policymakers shouldn’t be snatching away the safety net that is keeping so many out of poverty.

Fortunately, there has been a push from Congressional Democrats to extend federal unemployment benefits and ensure those two million jobless Americans aren’t left in the cold.

Let’s hope those efforts are successful.

It’s also crucial for the unemployed that lawmakers forge a fiscal cliff deal that staves off another recession and preserves the public and private spending fueling employment growth.

If Congress and the President fail to make a deal, the job market will contract — resulting in even fewer opportunities for those desperate for a paycheck.

However, many voters don’t appear to be aware that this would be one of the dire consequences of going over the cliff. A new poll from The Los Angeles Times asked if high unemployment was “reason enough” to broker a fiscal cliff deal. Shockingly, fully 54 percent said “no.”

Public perception needs to change. Most lawmakers will only prioritize the jobless if they think that’s what their constituents want.

This employment crisis is particularly severe, as evidenced by a new study showing that only about half of out-of-work job seekers are actually receiving unemployment benefits. That rate represents a 20 percent drop from 2010.

One of the big reasons for that falloff is that so many of the unemployed have been out of work for so long that their benefits have expired and they’re no longer eligible for public support.

Sadly the prospects of a smart fiscal deal getting done before the end of the year look dim. Just last week, House Speaker John Boehner told reporters that there had been little progress in ongoing negotiations. And anti-tax zealots like Grover Norquist have launched a full-court press on their Republican allies not to sign off on any deal that raises taxes on millionaires.

Let’s hope lawmakers can put aside petty politics and do what’s right for the jobless.

It’s a choice between austerity and prosperity. Exit Left Ahead towards 18 million jobs.




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