The Downward Spiral

The National Employment Law Project estimates that more than a million Americans are in the same situation. “For a lot of people and a lot of families, this is their only income source,” said NELP federal advocacy coordinator Judy Conti. “This could pull the rug out from under 1.3 million families,” she said. Without an extension, an additional 2 million will fall off the rolls in the first half of the year.

“Job opportunities are, by most measures, really no better than they were a year ago,” said Heidi Shierholz, labor market economist at the Economic Policy Institute.

The improving unemployment rate is largely due to people dropping out of the labor force, and hiring hasn’t budged from a year ago, she said. “The reason they extended it last year, that reason is still almost exactly the same right now.”

Despite more than 25 years in the retail industry, Shields said the fact that she doesn’t have a college degree makes landing a management level job challenging. “It’s such an employers’ market at this point. They seem to be more interested now in your education, if you’ve got a bachelor’s degree, than they used to be,” she said.

Higher education is no magic bullet, though. Abe Gorelick’s Ivy League undergrad degree and MBA from the University of Chicago weren’t enough to keep the 57-year-old Massachusetts resident off the unemployment rolls.

The families receiving extended unemployment benefits are generally in dire financial straits, so helping them helps the economy overall, economists say. “Emergency UI has one of the largest economic bangs for the buck,” Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, said via email. According to Zandi’s calculation, these payments have a multiplier of 1.49: For every dollar in extended unemployment benefits jobless Americans get, $1.49 goes back into the economy.

“Nobody wins when we leave people looking for work out in the cold,” said Amy Traub, a senior policy analyst at advocacy group Demos. “It hurts the economy when local businesses can’t rely on basic spending. … It strains the private safety net when food banks and charities have to serve more people,” she said. “It slows down our recovery.”

Well, this deal is a—actually, I think, a big win for the Paul Ryan Republicans. They will avoid the embarrassment, shame and political damage of shutting down the government, and they will obtain this from the—they obtained this from the Democrats without, as Congressman Pocan pointed out in his statement, touching at all the major issues. The corporate loopholes aren’t being closed. The tax-avoidance techniques of billionaires, who can legally live tax-free if they choose to, are not being shut down. The hedge fund and private equity managers will continue to be advantaged. And we’re going to kick 57,000 poor children out of Head Start, which means we’re going to narrow their economic futures and make all of us worse off in the future. We’re cutting a billion-and-a-half dollars from medical research to save lives. Why? Because the very richest people in America, those who have benefited most from being in this market, don’t want to pay for that kind of services. And by the way, being official report, the Pentagon is getting an extra $20 billion out of this deal. We already spend 42 percent of all the money in the world on our military. More money for the Pentagon? Seriously? While we are cutting off unemployment benefits and cutting medical research, reducing pensions for federal workers? This makes absolutely no sense. It will make us worse off. there is a war going on in this country, and it’s on the poor. And we have all sorts of ways that we are doing this. We are restricting their access to Medicaid. We are cutting food stamps dramatically in this country, or will be very soon. There is a 90-day fix for doctors who treat people who are on Medicaid. That, I suspect, will not be continued. And why would we be cutting fees to doctors who provide healthcare to people, unless, of course, you just, as Congressman Grayson once said, want them to die?

There are n 40 hour jobs, some work several part time jobs at substandard pay. People are being cut back 32 hours on minimum wage. Rent and food and utilitities soar.


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