Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Politics of Unemployment

Congressional Democrats and Republicans are doing an election-year dance with the White House over extending unemployment benefits. The House yesterday failed to approve a proposal to give jobless workers an extra three months of eligibility, but Democrats are bringing the bill back for another vote today.

Yesterday's bill came up after the May jobless report showed the largest one-month flood of filings in 22 years, the rate up to 5.5 percent from 5 percent, as the number of laid-off workers increased to 8.5 million with more than 1.6 million out of work for 27 weeks or more and no longer eligible for benefits.

Some worried Republicans are supporting the extension, including John McCain, but President Bush keeps threatening to veto it as "not fiscally responsible to extend benefits in states with very low unemployment rates."

The logic of this is mind-boggling, since workers in those states would collect a smaller total of benefits for families that need help as much as those in areas with higher unemployment rates.

Democrats are not unaware of this impasse as an election issue. Rahm Emanuel, chair of the Democratic House caucus, observed that Republicans "are all for spending an additional 10 or 12 years in Iraq, but they're opposed to 13 additional weeks of benefits for unemployed people who, through no fault of their own, are without work."

But election-year rhetoric won't feed hungry children. A veto-proof bill should be on the Congressional menu this week without political applesauce.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You raise valid points about the unemployment benefits bill. It seems almost inevitable this issue will get bogged down in the election-year quagmire of Washington. I hope I'm wrong.