Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Unemployment: A Lesson Learned (Or Not)

Independence Day, my ass. Following another brutal monthly survey of the nation's unemployment rate from 9.7% in May to 9.5% in June, we were informed that the slight drop is not a result of Americans being hired—but instead because 652,000 people simply stopped looking for work.

I get it. Before my current temporary position with the U.S. Census Bureau began in February, I was among the hundreds of thousands who, after almost a year out of work, continued to network, freelance and send in resumes by the stack to job postings. During that time, I fostered zero interviews. I'm not new to the workforce, I'm hardly inexperienced, my clips and resume speak for themselves. Simply, I work in an industry that is imploding and where positions do exist, they go to 20-somethings employed to learn on the job. Experience anymore comes with a price tag that employers are willing to forgo for their bottom line.

That makes it all the more appalling that Republicans in office have turned their back on extending unemployment benefits to those—like me—who would much rather work and restore steady income and health benefits than scrounge from paycheck to paycheck.

Sharron Angle, a Republican senatorial candidate from Nevada, had the gall to suggest, "You can make more money on unemployment than you can going down and getting an honest job but it doesn’t pay as much." Or Senator Jon Kyl, an Arizona Republican, who insists that extending benefits "is a disincentive for them to seek new work.”

How dare they. What Republicans really stand for as a collective, quite simply, is to rally against anything that the Democrat President of The United States believes in, such that they're willing to turn their back on the basic needs of constituents.

In The New York Times, Paul Krugman reasons that a primary reason there aren’t enough jobs is weak consumer demand. "Helping the unemployed by putting money in the pockets of people who badly need it helps support consumer spending. That’s why the Congressional Budget Office rates aid to the unemployed as a cost-effective form of economic stimulus. Aid to the unemployed creates jobs quickly, while allowing that aid to lapse is a recipe for even weaker job growth."

Krugman notes that the Republicans' defense that the almighty budget deficit will be oh so much worse if we extend benefits to the jobless is a bunch of hooey: "As I and others have been arguing, penny-pinching in the midst of a severely depressed economy is no way to deal with our long-run budget problems. And penny-pinching at the expense of the unemployed is cruel as well as misguided."

But try explaining that to a Republican Senator, who, as of 2009, earned $174,000 a year. Fat chance.