Unemployment benefits: Will Congress do the right thing?

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Dean Heller and unemployment benefits.

In this Sept. 8, 2011, file photo, Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)

Extended unemployment insurance benefits expired on December 28, 2013. That means that out of the 4.1 million people who have been on long-term unemployment, 1.3 million will be affected by losing their extended unemployment benefits unless Congress acts when it reconvenes next week.

The American economy for at least the past six years or so has been stagnant. Yet, the Obama Administration likes to say that jobs are on the rise and that the economy continues to improve, but that optimism simply doesn’t jive with the number of people unemployed especially long-termed.

On Monday, January 6, two Senators one a Democrat (Jack Reed of Delaware) and the other a Republican (Dean Heller of Nevada) will introduce legislation to renew the Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC).

It’s expected that the Senate will vote in the affirmative on Monday as well. The tricky and looming question is whether the Republican controlled House of Representatives will follow suit.

The vote isn’t in, yet House Republicans are already being attacked by liberals and other Democrats for being insensitive to the unemployed by suggesting they won’t pass the extended unemployment insurance measure.

Certainly, there are some Republicans that may have brought up this notion of not caring by voicing their opinions about the enormously huge federal debt (over 17 trillion and counting).

Republicans, for the most part, have been the voice of caution against raising the federal debt ceiling  – and believe that if the federal government extends unemployment insurance even temporarily to another three months, its cost will add another $25 billion to the federal deficit.

Their argument is technically sound; i.e., if the federal government continues to spend more and more while revenue collected from taxes and other items is less than the amount spent, how long can the government continue to pay not only for unemployment insurance but for other major ticket items such as social security benefits, federal payroll, military benefits, the list goes on and on.

The federal government’s spending is no different from the way we financially run our own households. We cannot buy everything we see and want unless we have a type of income that can sustain such desires.

If we go ahead and spend regardless of our income level we will raise our debt to a point where cannot pay our bills and before we know it, could end up filing for bankruptcy. Sure the federal government can print more money which it has already, and yes, the federal government can borrow money from other countries which it has also done but to what end?

The welfare recipients want to work

Yet, because of many things the Obama Administration has done to this economy, it hasn’t paid off in much job creation, thus we continue to have an enormous number of Americans that cannot find work. And that is the major focus of this article and what Congress will have to address next week.

Many years ago, I was part of a federal research team that traveled to south Texas to interview welfare recipients. I came away more depressed than when I walked into the humble homes of those hapless individuals.

They all wanted to work and wished to get off of welfare – they hated being idle and dependent on federal assistance. Work is the linchpin to our existence and to our survival – and we ALL want to do it.

Sure an extension of unemployment insurance benefits will be costly, but the livelihood of good and hard-working Americans is at stake and will be a lot more costly in human terms if not done.

It’s time for Republicans in the House of Representatives to do the right thing by helping the workers of America keep their homes and help keep their children fed.

These long-term unemployed individuals don’t want to be idle and dependent on federal help anymore than those welfare recipients did in south Texas; they just want one more chance to find employment because if they don’t, they risk becoming wards of the state and that won’t be a good thing for anyone concerned.

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