BLAME THE UNEMPLOYED: Senators Bash Jobless As Drug-Addicted, Lazy

BLAME THE UNEMPLOYED: Senators Bash Jobless As Drug-Addicted, Lazy

Washington : DC : USA | Jul 08, 2010 at 7:37 PM PDT
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Many to Lose Unemployment Benefits

Why won’t Congress reauthorize unemployment benefits for people who’ve been jobless for more than six months???!!!

For the past several weeks, GOPers in the Senate, with the help of Nebraska Dem Ben Nelson, filibustered bills to reauthorize the benefits on account of concerns about adding the cost of the aid to the deficit.

This year, a handful of senators and representatives from both parties have said that they suspect that extended jobless benefits actually discourage people from jobhunting.

It began in March with Senator Jon Kyl (R-Arizona), who said that jobless insurance “doesn’t create new jobs. In fact, if anything, continuing to pay people unemployment compensation is a disincentive for them to seek new work.”

In May, Senator Judd Gregg (R-New Hampshire) said that extended benefits undermine the economic recovery for the reason that they “basically keep an economy that encourages people to, rather than go out and look for work, to stay on unemployment.” And Representative Jason Altmire (D-Pennsylvania), following pushing party leaders to trim a domestic aid bill, said that in light of four months of job growth “At some point, you have to take a step back and look at the relative value of unemployment benefits versus people looking for jobs.”

Altmire said that business owners in his district (He declined to say which ones) complained of hiring trouble for the reason that potential employees would rather stay on the dole.

At a June hearing on long-term joblessness, Representative John Linder (R-Georgia) also trotted out the hard-luck business owner. “Even when businesses are willing to hire, nearly two years of unemployment benefits are too much of an allure for some,” said Linder, citing an anecdotal Detroit News story about landscapers having trouble hiring jobless people who would rather stay on the dole. “The evidence is mounting that so-called stimulus policies rammed through Congress are doing more harm than good.”

To some on the Hill, the unemployed aren’t just lazy, they’re on drugs as well. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) proposed drug testing the jobless. “A lot of people are saying “Hey, it’s about time. Why do we keep giving money to people who are going to go use it on drugs instead of their families?””

To qualify for benefits, an individual is required to have been laid off because of economic reasons, through no fault of his or her own. The benefits usually total 74% of the official poverty threshold for a family of four. There are five jobhunters for every available job, and a full third of the almost 15 million jobless don’t get benefits, never have, and never will.

Patricia Rosen, of Huntsville, Alabama, called the accusations of laziness “insane.”

“I highly resent the comments,” said Rosen, who told the Huffington Post that she lost her job in 2009 and stopped getting benefits on June 4 due to the congressional lapse. “I’ve always been looking for a job...They do not want to hire you if you’re unemployed.”

There are businesses that are firmly refusing to hire the unemployed. The Huffington Post has found online job ads that say “NO UNEMPLOYED CANDIDATES WILL BE CONSIDERED AT ALL.”

“I don’t think the jobs are out there. I look for jobs constantly. They just aren’t there,” said James Edlund, a technical writer from Minneapolis, Minnesota. He has been unemployed since August of 2008 and his benefits were cut off last month. “We can bail out banks and insurance and the auto industry, and then the Senate goes and spends the 4th of July on their boats with their fine bourbon and cigars. There seems to be a huge disconnect between our Congress and what’s going on out in the street.”

Kim Metts, of Wilmington, North Carolina, relied on jobless benefits and a rapidly depleting savings account to feed her teenage son for a year prior to finally finding a job, earning $11 per hour. The benefits weren’t enough to save her house from foreclosure.

“It makes me sick that Congress finds it necessary to keep pouring more and more taxpayer money into these banks, mortgage companies, and nothing into the pockets of those who are, in reality, paying the bills,” said Metts. “If I hear one more stupid congressman point the finger at the American public and accuse those who can’t find work of being lazy drug addicts, I think I’ll do more than scream. You better believe I’ll be counted at the polls come November.”

In April, the San Francisco Federal Reserve published a report, which found that “extended unemployment insurance benefits have not been important factors in the increase in the duration of unemployment or in the elevated unemployment rate.”

Last Friday, Dems, on the congressional Joint Economic Committee (JEC), released a report, blasting the idea that extended benefits discourage jobhunting. “Playing deficit politics with unemployment benefits is simply wrong,” said JEC Chair Representative Carolyn Maloney (D-New York). “As this JEC report clearly shows, unemployment benefits do not deter unemployed workers from vigorously looking for a new job, especially in this economy. Additionally, the dollars they receive are plowed right back into the economy.”

“How anyone can demonize people who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own, and who are struggling to simply keep afloat in this job market is beyond me,” said Judy Conti, a lobbyist for the National Employment Law Project. “These remarks add nothing to the debate about how to handle a very serious crisis, and reveal the speakers as people who have no compassion, little basic human decency, and absolutely no understanding of the present job market in this country. They should be ashamed of themselves.”

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Stephanie Sklar is based in Silver Spring, Maryland, United States of America, and is an Anchor on Allvoices.
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