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Why Are Republicans Socking It to the Unemployed?

If Republicans really want Americans to get back to work, then it’s time for them to support the policies and legislation that will put them back to work.

(Image: Lance Page / Truthout; Adapted: David Fant, Gage Skidmore )

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Today, the Senate is expected to pass the bipartisan budget deal, which will then need to be signed by President Obama, who has already expressed his support for the deal.

And while the deal does address some of this nation’s economic woes, what’s notably missing from it is an extension of unemployment benefits for 1.3 million Americans who are set to lose their unemployment insurance at the end of the month.

So why doesn’t the bipartisan budget deal address this nation’s unemployment epidemic?

Just ask Rand Paul, and any of his Republican colleagues for that matter, who adamantly oppose extending unemployment insurance benefits.

On Fox News Sunday last week, Paul said that, “I do support unemployment benefits for the 26 weeks that they’re paid for. If you extend it beyond that, you do a disservice to these workers. When you allow people to be on unemployment insurance for 99 weeks [sic], you’re causing them to become part of this perpetual unemployed group in our economy.

Paul and his colleagues think that by cutting off unemployment insurance to millions of Americans, they’re actually motivating them to get jobs.

And that’s fine if there are jobs to get. But there aren’t.

As of November, there were 10.9 million unemployed Americans. Yet, employers only added 203,000 jobs last month.

While those new jobs might help the economy, they’re obviously not enough to put all unemployed Americans back to work.

But Republicans don’t get that.

They continue to stand by the myth that Americans will magically find jobs if they aren’t receiving unemployment insurance.

But what will really happen when 1.3 million Americans lose their unemployment insurance at the end of the month is that these Americans will faller deeper and deeper into poverty.

According to the National Employment Law Project, last year, unemployment insurance helped to keep 1.7 million Americans, including over 440,000 children of unemployed adults, out of poverty.

And, as Matt Yglesias points out over at Slate, if millions of Americans lose their unemployment insurance, “[S]ome fairly substantial fraction of the long-term unemployed will just stop looking for a job and drop out of the labor force. If you’re long-term unemployed, then almost by definition looking for work has not been very successful at getting you work…”

Republicans refuse to acknowledge that when capitalism fails, the government should be the employer of last resort.

Rather than taking away unemployment insurance from Americans and condemning them to a life of poverty, Republicans need to realize that, like it or not, when capitalism fails, the government has an obligation to be the employer of last resort.

If Republicans really want Americans to get back to work, then it’s time for them to support the policies and legislation that will put them back to work.

Let’s create a modern-day equivalent of the WPA and the CCC.

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