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Trevor Davis
Published: Thursday 20 December 2012
Tick tock. Ten days left. The hostages wait for forces beyond their control to decide their fate.

The Real War on Christmas: Canceling Unemployment Insurance For Two Million Americans

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President Obama criticized House Speaker John Boehner’s “Plan B” proposal today because it  lacks an extension for unemployment insurance for the long-term jobless.

If the president fails to win on this issue, two million people will face tough choices. The mortgage or the car payment? Go to the doctor or hope for the best? Cash in the 401(k) or take the kids out of college?

Tick tock. Ten days left. The hostages wait for forces beyond their control to decide their fate.

Yet it is up to all of us. Will we send these two million unfortunates a brochure with their last check? A few words of encouragement and instructions for signing up for the food stamps that Republicans love to hate? Don’t forget to say “Happy New Year.”

According to the Council of Economic Advisers (1), families will spend 22 percent less on food when they lose unemployment insurance. Considering half of the people collecting benefits had zero liquid assets (2) when they lost their job, they likely will not have enough money left to buy bootstraps to pull themselves up by.

We know this. We’ve been here before.

But we must save money, and everyone has to make hard choices. Most of us would concede that. Hard choices, yes. Stupid choices, no.

According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, every dollar spent on unemployment insurance raises gross domestic product by $1.90 (3). It has the highest potential impact on job creation of the policy options they examined.

We know this. Every time this program is threatened, we trot out these same statistics. We dig up the same research papers. The same economists write the same op-eds. Yet here we are again.

The question is: Why are we allowing this stupid and cruel policy to be used as a bargaining chip?

Most legislation that passes through Congress has a legitimate argument on both sides. Taxes, the war in Afghanistan even (God help us), gun control are all issues where each side has an argument that can be characterized as consistent with the DSM definition of sanity (4).

This is not such a case. I cannot fathom the motivations of those who will let people who had jobs and want jobs (also well documented (5)) fall into destitution. I cannot understand why they would do this when there is literally no benefit to anyone. Nor would I try. Life is short.

Obama’s team must be tired. They must be frustrated. They must be scared that they will lose this game of chicken. I can see why they might give the baby their bottle for the greater good. If they do, I get it but it won’t be good enough.

This is where we come in. As progressives (scratch that, as human beings) we have to draw a line in the sand, put the cards on the table, man up and say “NO.” Two million private tragedies are at stake.

This week you’ve been told to sign petitions, write and phone Congress. You’ve written angry letters to the editor that get longer with each concession.  You’ve show up for protests. ‘Tis the season.

What I would like to do is get a rock and throw it a window.  Letters, phone calls and petitions deny us the satisfaction of shattering glass.

It’s not a productive impulse. I don’t know whose window to break nor can I tell you how breaking it would change anything. As far as I know, Campaign for America’s Future has no reserve fund for bailing frustrated progressives out of county jails.

Email. Phone calls. Petition.  Letters to the editor. Tell your friends, colleagues, church members and sympathetic looking strangers.

If we don’t, there will be two more million people out there we can’t look in the eye.

  2. National Bureau of Economic Research 
  4. There is no strict definition of “sanity” in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders  IV (Text Revised). For our purposes, lets say the people who disagree with me don’t necessarily suffer from a thought disorder. 

Merry Christmas! Ah yes the

Merry Christmas!
Ah yes the Christian thing to do. Make the plight of the poor and desperate worse.
I am sure some "Christian" somewhere will find a passage in the Bible that justifies such an act.

Though I support any policies

Though I support any policies which cause money to flow to the poor and middle classes from the wealthy classes that can afford to share, I'm not sure that that is what this bill accomplishes - likely the funds come from mostly the middle class taxpayers. And the unemployment benefits it would extend would leave many of the longest unemployed without any assistance - those who had the misfortune (like myself) to become unemployed long before the idea of extending unemployment benefits first occurred after 9/11/2001. I think it is shameful that we stop counting people as unemployed after a certain arbitrary date when unemployment benefits expire. Not that unemployment benefits shouldn't have limits, but to stop counting us as if we cease to exist or have needs when the unemployment office can't help us any more basically sends a message that we are hopeless and might as well be dead, so as to cease being a burden to others. But we still have a lot to contribute, and we aren't going to stop trying to support ourselves. Many of us have become involuntarily self (under) employed and poor. We can usually find people to hire us to do odd jobs, but infrequently and for much lower wages, so the income is below what a minimum wage job would be. But we are getting by as best we can in America, which is rapidly dismantling what safety nets it ever had.

Boris Badenov's picture

The GOP is a Dead Party run

The GOP is a Dead Party run by deadheads.

I certainly agree with this

I certainly agree with this article, but:
What enrages me is that Obama Dems will at most trade unemployment extension for more concessions to Repubs, the wealthy and corporate cartels.

The 99% must awaken to the "war" in effect being waged against them, to the extent of Dem-elite and corporate-media complicity with it, and cease being appeased by appeasements. The USA has already fallen to the basement of nations in terms of disparity in income and wealth. The top 400 have more than the bottom 150 MILLION. Absent a counter-weight to the profiteering right and against "centrist" compromise with it, today's 99% will suffer far worse than they are suffering now, and their children will be at the mercy of an even more wealthy, ruthless and powerful 1%.

Perhaps, in the end, the

Perhaps, in the end, the choice will be between quiet acceptance or a revolution.

We have lived for so many years now with the awful lie that allowing the inequality that exists now is the way to create jobs. If the rich have the money, so the tale goes, then there will be jobs. Well, we have waited and waited and waited. No job creation, but lots of offshore accounts. So much for tall tales.

I truly believe we need an economic revolution. Not sure, in my ancient wisdom, what this would look like, but I feel the level of technology we now have and will likely have in the future will not provide enough 40-hour/week jobs to provide for full employment. Step one: get rid of the inequality. Tax the rich. They've had a lot of fun over the last few decades. It is now our time to live decently. Step two: set up an economy that meets the needs of society - one in which wealth is shared at a community level - often referred to as "the commons". Job-sharing; more time to spend at home, raising kids, pursuing personal interests, continuing education. Perhaps, employee ownership of the majority of businesses, thereby eliminating the worst of the greed in our present system.

My point being we cannot go back to the way things were. That will only lead to the same kind of problems we face now. The changes we need to make in how our economy functions, and for whom, will certainly not cheer up the super rich, but I am not particularly concerned about them anymore. Given the fact that they are very much in a minority and did not seem to care all that much how the middle class and the poor would be affected by their greed, we can act and make it stick if we find the will to do it.

In reply to Diane, who

In reply to Diane, who commented at 3:05PM:

Thank you for your thoughtful ideas for economic revolution.
I think it takes a socio-political revolution against capitalism and consumerism run amok, which is to say an overthrow not of government but of the Repub-Dem stranglehold on it.

Scrooge and the Grinch are

Scrooge and the Grinch are Republicans.

If you are collecting

If you are collecting unemployment, who has money to go to the doctor? If you are unemployed, you should have already had the discussion about kids and college. My point is that the GOP has been terrorising the unemployed for HOW MANY YEARS now? At this point nobody should be stupid enough to think their next unemployment check will be in the bank. How could anyone be that stupid as to think the GOP gives a fig about you or your kids? They are terrorising you.

Ms. Goodman and others can put out all the stats they want, it will not change the mentality that the unemployed are moochers, leeches, and not entitled to a penny. The discussion needs to be about getting these folks back to work ASAP. To do that, we must change how the Unemployment System works. The unemployed should get some sort of food, health, and housing assistance PROVIDED they are in a degree or certificate program that will increase their chances to become employed. That education should be picked up in good part by taxpayers. Education would be the person's main focus. Get good grades and you keep getting checks. Not a book-learning person, skilled trade/apprenticeships might be right for you. The current system penalizes people who want to really better themselves with education. The idea being that if you are in class, you are not looking for work; if you are not looking for work, you don't get a check.

Lastly, the nutjobs need get over themselves by thinking the unemployed are living high on the bacon from the nutjobs' wallets. And let the unemployed work 40 hours at a minimum wage job AND keep their full UI check. They have to be available for interviews and still have to be submitting applications.

I've got a Master's degree,

I've got a Master's degree, but I've been unemployed for over six years. Would you suggest I go for a doctorate? There comes a point where one more degree isn't going to matter.

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