The Senate has so far declined to extend unemployment insurance benefits
beyond 99 weeks. That means that 1.4 million workers who have been
unemployed for 100 weeks or longer receive no unemployment benefits. These
people, dubbed the 99ers, are a challenge to legislators and a symbol
of how difficult this recession has become. What do these Americans mean
for the battle for recovery and for Congress's struggle to help aid
- The Scope of the 99ers Problem The
Washington Post's Michael Fletcher writes,
"Their numbers have grown sixfold in the past three years. ... The 99ers
are glaring examples of the nation's most serious bout of long-term
joblessness since the Great Depression. Nearly 46 percent of the
country's 14.6 million unemployed people have been out of work for more
than six months, and forecasters project that the situation will not
improve anytime soon. Currently, the Labor Department says there are
nearly five unemployed people for every job opening."
Economy Needs More Unemployment Insurance The Washington Post's Ezra Klein argues, "Right now,
there are about five workers for every one job. Unemployment insurance
is not the problem here. ... Unemployment is likely to remain above 9
percent for the rest of this year, and for much of next. That means the
ranks of the long-term unemployed will swell even further. ... And we're
just going to leave them without incomes and without job opportunities
and without money to spend in their wrecked local economies -- thus
making it harder for those economies to generate new jobs? That's the
economic theory this country is going to embrace amid terrible
- The Alarming Growth of 99ers The Columbia
Journalism Review's Holly Yeager writes, "In usual
times, those who have been unemployed that long make up a small
fraction of the unemployment picture. But these aren't usual times, and
the 99ers have become a big part of the story," making up 3 percent of
the unemployed in June 2007 but 9.2 percent in June 2010.
Exacerbate Crisis Measures to extend unemployment insurance have
met with staunch resistance from Senate Republicans. Liberal blogger John Cole fumes, "You would think
this kind of story would motivate the Democrats, but considering the
Republicans have every incentive to make sure more people are miserable,
I doubt motivation will help much. That's the perverse reality. The
more Americans who hurt, the more political and philosophical incentive
the GOP has to block any attempts to help the
- Rand Paul's Solution The Washington
Independent's Annie Lowrey paraphrases, "Take a pay cut and stop asking
for government aid." Paul said, "As bad as it sounds, ultimately we do
have to sometimes accept a wage that's less than we had at our previous
job in order to get back to work and allow the economy to get started
again. ... I think the issue is bigger than unemployment benefits. ...
It's all about priorities, what is the priority. And sometimes tough
decisions will have to be made."
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