Tuesday, February 18, 2014


These people are our fellow citizens. Their numbers may include family members, relatives, and friends—and yet the system has cut them off from Federal Government help.

You have been out of work too long. Clearly you are worthless.

Is this how Americans treat Americans?

Apparently so.

“The greatest country in the world”—and this sort of cruelty do not go together.

“Land of the brave and home of the free.”

You are very far from free when you have no income. Poverty is a prison. Financial stress kills.

The following is some background from a Washington Post story.

Never in more than 65 years have so many workers been without a job and without a government lifeline. Congress cut off 1 million people en masse in December when it permitted a special emergency program for the long-term unemployed to lapse. Since then, their ranks have been growing by about 72,000 a week, according to the National Employment Law Project (NELP), which lobbies on behalf of the jobless.

On Tuesday, in testimony before Congress,Federal Reserve Chair Janet L. Yellen highlighted long-term unemployment as one of the central challenges of the U.S. economic recovery. Not only is it a sign that the labor market is still weak, she said, but it also shows that economic growth is falling far short of its potential.

The problem has also consumed White House officials, who worry not only about how to get these people back to work but also about how they get by. Former White House chief economist Alan Krueger said he once visited an off-track betting site in the middle of the day in hopes of finding cutoff workers and interviewing them about how they were supporting themselves.

“I still couldn’t figure it out,” said Krueger, who returned last year to his job teaching economics at Princeton University. He dubbed the phenomenon “the Kramer effect,” after Cosmo Kramer, the eccentric “Seinfeld” character who had no clear means of support.

Someone who loses a job typically receives unemployment benefits from the state for 26 weeks. During the recession, however, the number of people who remained out of work swelled, and Congress voted in 2008 to provide additional aid that made checks available for as long as 99 weeks in the hardest-hit states.

Last year, lawmakers cut the maximum benefit to 73 weeks. Then, at the end of December, Congress let federal aid lapse altogether.

Mitchell Hirsch of NELP said people were “thrust essentially overnight from a situation where they were struggling to make ends meet with their benefits into one where they’re now struggling just to survive.” Six weeks later, he said, “what we’re hearing . . . is increasingly desperate.”

And what does the American Business Model do about this deplorable situation? It makes matters worse by shunning these people.

The blame for this lies squarely with the Republican party—and this needs to be said repeatedly. The president and the Democrats want to extend benefits.

Only the House Republicans stand in the way.

Such behavior flies in the face of common human decency.  It defies contempt.

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