Unless Congress acts by Nov. 30 — which seems unlikely because of GOP opposition — two million unemployed Americans will lose the jobless benefits that in many cases account for their only income. And from there, the numbers will grow larger. Many of those who will lose benefits have children to feed and clothe; many of them have homes they are in the process of losing.
The officially conservative narrative teaches us that assisting these people through hard times is unaffordable given our deficit problems. It further instructs us that these fellow Americans are “nonproducers” or “parasites” living large — on a maximum of $330 a week here in Georgia — at the expense of the virtuous “producers.” The conservative narrative holds that these people are simply lazy, and that once aid is cut off, they will finally be motivated to go out and take the jobs that are surely available … somewhere.
The numbers, on the other hand, tell a different story. Almost 15 million Americans are unemployed, and 6.2 million of them have been unemployed for six months or longer. This, in an economy that last month produced just new 150,000 jobs.
Do the math: Almost 15 million unemployed, competing for 150,000 new jobs a month.
Meanwhile, the same political party that insists on blocking assistance to the unemployed on grounds that it will increase the deficit is also insisting that a tax cut for those Americans making more than $250,000 a year — a tax cut projected to increase the deficit by more than $700 billion — be made permanent.
In this tough economy, it might make sense to extend the tax cuts for the rich temporarily, for another year or two. But given our long-term fiscal challenge, making it permanent would be foolhardy. Nonetheless, that is the position that the GOP insists upon. Congressional Republican leaders are making it clear that they will try to kill a permanent extension of tax cuts for the middle class unless it includes a permanent extension for the rich as well.
But here’s the amazing part. The party that opposes extended benefits for the jobless, the party that in the worst economic crisis in 80 years treats forced unemployment as evidence of bad character and low morals, the party that would sacrifice tax cuts for the middle class unless they are also offered to the rich, sells itself as the party of the common man, and accuses its opposition of defending the elites.
And the Democrats, to their eternal shame, let them get away with it.