Dec 19, 2013
The budget agreement passed by both the House and Senate stops some of the senseless cuts required by sequestration and, at least for two years, means there won't be a government shutdown over the issue.
Of course, it doesn't change the possibility of a government shutdown over the debt limit, something Republican senators and House members have said is still possible.
It's good that negotiations worked and that some of the extreme cuts, especially to domestic programs, made under sequestration won't go into effect, like cuts in Head Start funding that pushed 57,000 children out of that program. Unfortunately, many other program cuts won't be restored.
It's shameful that under this budget deal, 1.3 million Americans will lose their emergency unemployment insurance benefits starting on December 28, because Congress couldn't see fit to extend them past the end of the year. Workers in every state but North Carolina are eligible for extended benefits because of still-too-high unemployment rates.
After a worker's state benefits run out – after 26 weeks – federal extended unemployment benefits can provide an additional 47 weeks of support. But because Congress didn't act, after 26 weeks, the safety net is shredded.
These jobless workers are among the 4.1 million long-term unemployed, workers who have been searching for jobs in a dismal environment. Two-thirds of the long-term unemployed are ages 26-55, one-third have children, one-half have at least some college education, and one in ten are college graduates.
The Republican take on benefits like unemployment benefits or food stamps is that we "harm" the poor or the unemployed by providing them with a safety net. Sen. Rand Paul says it's a "disservice" to the unemployed. Other Republicans say getting food stamps prevents recipients from "dreaming."
It's not a "disservice," however, when corporations and the 1 percent get their handouts.
Senate Democrats have said they will push for an extension of unemployment benefits early next year when Congress reconvenes.
There are many reasons to keep this safety net for jobless workers. One is that these dollars are immediately spent in our economy. It's a very effective fiscal stimulus tool. And it's the right thing to do. We need to keep up the pressure on Congress and the administration to have these benefits restored.