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Congress was expected to pass a bill this week extending unemployment benefits to more than 2.5 million workers who had those benefits lapse in June.
Extending those benefits — at a cost of about $34 billion — needed to be done, but there was a better way to pay for it.
On Monday President Obama accused the Republicans of playing politics with the issue by insisting that the Democrats agree to pay for the extended benefits with unused stimulus funds. “It’s time to do what’s right,” the President said, “not for the election, but for the middle class.”
The problem is, the Democrats were doing exactly what he accused the GOP of doing: playing politics with those who are unemployed.
The Republicans have never said they didn’t favor extending the benefits; they just wanted to make sure that the expenditure was paid for instead of adding to the national debt. That debt now stands somewhere in the neighborhood of $13 trillion. This year alone another $1.3 trillion is going to be added to the debt. In fact, $166 billion alone was added one day earlier this month.
Let’s all say it together now: Out of Control.
The $787 billion stimulus bill has failed to produce jobs. We were promised by the White House that, if the stimulus was implemented, the unemployment rate wouldn’t go over 8 percent. Instead, it has been as high as 10 percent and now stands around 9.5 percent. Some 15 million people remain out of work and the nation has shed more than seven million jobs since late 2007. The private sector, the moving force behind any recovery, has been sluggish at best. In fact, the majority of jobs “created or saved” by the stimulus bill were government jobs. No surprise there.
Democrats have claimed that unemployment benefits stimulate the economy as much as anything. If that’s true, then they should have jumped on board the Republican plan to pay for the extended unemployment benefits with unused stimulus funds. It was a simple request, but one that President Obama and his Congressional partners couldn’t accept. Apparently there are still too many pet projects left to pay for with the stimulus funds to actually use them for something that could benefit the economy and help those Americans hurt by the recession.
This issue is sure to be at the forefront of Congressional campaigns in the upcoming elections and President Obama has already indicated another extension of those benefits will be needed right around the time voters hit the polls to cast their ballots.
It’s politics as usual and the American people are the ones being hurt, not just now, but for generations to come.