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To extend long-term unemployed benefits or not to extend long-term unemployment

Having not extended long-term unemployment benefits for 1.3 million Americans, the Senate is now arguing over an extension costing 6.5 billion dollars for three months worth of benefits. Certainly, the US government spends far more money on far more wasteful things. On the one side, Democrats simply want to pass the extension as is the typical course of action when it comes to helping American taxpayers in need. On the other side, Republicans oppose the extension for two basic reasons.

The American People need an economy built for them, but they need help now.
The American People need an economy built for them, but they need help now.
Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

First, they want the extension paid for, which is not entirely unreasonable. Clearly, there is a certain degree of hypocrisy to these requirements, considering Republicans rarely want to pay for their priorities, such as easing Sequester cuts for the military or increasing tax cuts for businesses. Even when they do pay for their wants, it is questionable as to whether cost savings and revenue increases will be seen. In accordance, it may be a good idea for Democrats to consider proposing a tax on Wall Street firms to pay for their role in engineering the Great Recession and the ongoing ripple effects that include massive unemployment.

Second, Republicans view unemployment as encouraging unemployment. Certainly, the unemployed need to be able to survive until they can find a job or they will lose all of the wealth they have built up over their entire career as they become more dependent upon other social welfare programs. They also need to try to find jobs with comparable salaries; otherwise, their standards of living in the short-term and long-term will be undermined. That said, self-proclaimed Conservatives argue being on unemployment benefits for too long also hurts an individual’s earning ability as employers view employee skills to be highly perishable, whether right or wrong.

Certainly, there is truth to this argument; however, job seekers are not job creators. This means incentivizing the long-term unemployed to get a job by punishing them is not going to help them find a job, because they do not decide if they are offered a job, let alone one that will meet their living expenses. What the long-term unemployed need is help to solve the issues they are facing.

It is important to remember that the US unemployment rate is around seven percent, people who have been unemployed for a long period of time are less likely to get a job than those who want to leave their job for a new one, and our economy is not creating jobs, let alone quality jobs, at a rate the American People need our economy to do so. It is also important to remember the 1.3 million Americans in need of long-term unemployment benefits are not a static group. In other words, different people are losing and finding jobs all the time, but the time period between jobs is expected to be longer. As such, long-term unemployment benefits are necessary.

To be honest, nonemergency benefits may need to be expanded as part of a new standard for our new economy. Unfortunately, this means our government needs to focus on recalibrating our economy so it better serves the American People, rebuilding our economy so it actually produces quality jobs, reworking our education/training programs to better serve the workforce needs, and restructuring unemployment so it meets the unemployment needs of the era.

In short, Republicans and Democrats should pass this small extension then move onto dealing with the larger economics problems our Nation is facing. Instead of going back to gridlock over a small extension of unemployment benefits for a large number of vulnerable Americans, our political elites should be problem solving. If they take care of our economic problems now, unemployment benefits and the National Deficit will not be an issue in the future.