In his most recent weekly address, President Obama criticized Republicans for their filibustering tactics in Senate and their refusal to pass the bill on extending unemployment benefits. This is the third time Senate Republicans has stalled the bill. Anyone who opposes providing temporary unemployment benefit should consider the following:
Unemployment benefits were extended under President Bush several times. To be precise under President Bush, unemployment benefits were extended after 9/11, after Hurricane Katrina, and twice in 2003 and in 2008 with Republican support. Senate Republicans seem to suffer from selective amnesia as they do not seem to remember any of these events that happened during their administration.
Why are Republicans not supporting the measure that they once did? What is different now?
Well, America is experiencing an unprecedented level of unemployment. This is arguably the worst economic depression since 1930. If anything, this is probably the most appropriate time to extend unemployment benefits. Republicans don’t want to pass the bill simply because they want to play cheap politics without any regard for the millions of Americans who have lost their jobs.
The argument that extending unemployment benefits will add to the already out of control deficit is silly and lacks substance. Everyone knows that the country is facing a record deficit and no one would like to see it increase. The truth is, however, the deficit actually tripled during President Reagan’s terms; Republicans did not worry about it then and do not want to talk about it now. When President Clinton left office, the federal budget had a surplus of $236 billion, which President George Bush happily inherited and squandered. In fact, President Bush raked up more debt than all other previous presidents. So why are Republicans raising a cold front for the deficit now but not previously? The answer is simple - cheap politics.
Extending unemployment benefits will add $34 billion to $1.56 trillion deficit. If you do the math, you will find this is a negligible impact. In addition, unemployment benefits provide the simplest and most effective form of stimulus as people who receive these checks spend their money buying food and paying bills. According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) unemployment benefits offer the biggest bang for the buck of any government policy designed to jump-start economic growth — anywhere from 70 cents to $1.90 for every $1 spent on benefits. Moody's Analytics predicts a similar figure.
Extending unemployment benefits in hard times is the right thing to do by all counts. It is a shame that we have politicians who would rather apologize to BP but penalize the hard working Americans who lost their jobs.