Congressional Republicans continue to block an extension of unemployment benefits for the longterm jobless. Since the last extension expired on June 2, an estimated 1.2 million Americans have lost that economic lifeline, a number that grows every week.
In Georgia alone, an additional 7,000 jobless people are losing unemployment benefits every week because of the GOP’s stance. In fact, 47 percent of unemployed Georgians haven’t had a paycheck in at least six months, which means that by now, most of them have exhausted their savings and have no other resources to draw upon.
According to some, of course, that’s a good thing. They prefer to believe that there are jobs out there going unclaimed because people prefer to live on their unemployment check, which in Georgia maxes out at the princely sum of $330 a week. The fact that on average, there are five job applicants for every job opening doesn’t seem to penetrate the calloused and the smug.
The legislation also includes Medicaid money that state governments have been relying upon to balance their budgets. Georgia, for example, has built an expected $375 million in Medicaid assistance into its budget for fiscal 2011, which begins tomorrow. Without that money, Georgia will have to find that money somewhere else, which will mean drastic cuts in health care and perhaps another round of teacher layoffs as well.
The GOP argues that it wants the bill to be “paid for” with offsetting cuts elsewhere so that it won’t worsen the deficit by another $35 billion over 10 years. Interestingly, that concern about the deficit seems to disappear when the debate turns to extending Bush-era cuts on the capital gains and estate taxes, for example. Renewing those cuts would have a far bigger and more long-term impact on the deficit than will temporary aid to the unemployed and the sick.
But you gotta have prioirities, right?