The Norman Transcript

Columns

January 2, 2014

Cutting jobless aid will be costly

NORMAN — If some of your neighbors don’t seem too happy about the new year, it could be because Congress decided to go home and party without extending unemployment benefits.

After patting itself on the back for barely passing a budget deal, Congress left 1.3 million long-term-unemployed Americans without any obvious means of support. Lawmakers didn’t include an extension of unemployment benefits in the budget deal, so the program expired on Saturday.

In addition to the current beneficiaries, an extension would have helped an additional 850,000 people who are expected to have been out of work for more than six months as of March.

The federal aid serves as a backup for people who have exhausted their state benefits, which typically last six months. The program has been extended regularly since 2008, when it was instituted to help victims of the recession and heightened unemployment that followed the financial collapse. The recipients are people who are trying to keep their lives together as they look for work, which they are required to do to continue receiving benefits.

Even though national employment looked better last month, it hasn’t improved enough to scrap this program. At a national unemployment rate of 7 percent, too many Americans still don’t have jobs. Consider that long-term benefits were extended for the first time when unemployment hit just 5.6 percent.

It’s particularly disconcerting that the number of long-term jobless who are still looking for work continues to increase, having reached 2.3 percent of the workforce. Many of these people could fall into poverty. Helping them out of the pit at that point would be far more expensive than extending their unemployment assistance now. In the eight downturns since 1958, long-term unemployment benefits haven’t been cut until that figure dipped below 1.3 percent.

The premature discontinuation of these benefits threatens the economy as well as families. Benefit checks are quickly spent on necessities like rent and food, fueling economic activity. According to the Economic Policy Institute, the loss of this $25 billion program could kill another 310,000 jobs.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Columns
  • Congress should close gaps

    Of all of Edward Snowden’s revelations about electronic surveillance by the National Security Agency, the most unsettling was that the government was accumulating vast numbers of records about the telephone calls of American citizens. In ...

    July 27, 2014

  • Border obsession overlooks trade

    Texas Gov. Rick Perry made headlines recently by ordering 1,000 National Guard troops to the border. This bravado comes at a price: $12 million a month. Perry plans to send the bill the federal government. That’s one way to finance your ...

    July 27, 2014

  • Intercession badly needed in this world

    Yesterday was my feast day, or as the Italians call it, my “onomastico.” Since I live in the United States, it went completely unnoticed. If I lived in Italy, however, I would have been showered with cards and phone calls. That’s because ...

    July 27, 2014

  • Porch leap looked muchbigger as a kid

    It’s no secret that porch designs have changed over the years. Drive through new Norman developments and look at the porches. Most only have room for a potted plant and a spot to drop those UPS packages, no place for a porch swing or ...

    July 27, 2014

  • Keeping the war buried

    International outrage over the downing of a Malaysian passenger plane over Ukraine on July 17 does not appear to have affected either the actions of pro-Russia forces in that country or the material support Russia is offering the rebels. ...

    July 26, 2014

  • Gaza’s victims: civilians and peace

    After more than two weeks of fighting between Hamas and Israel, there is no question which side has the upper hand. Thursday’s strike on a U.N.-run school for Palestinian children increased the Palestinian death toll to more than 760. By ...

    July 26, 2014

  • Norman Forward builds momentum

    The quiet campaign to build momentum for a citywide public works project is beginning to attract some attention....

    July 20, 2014

  • Tax those trees out of here

    I read your editorial “Pesky red cedars” in the Norman Transcript of Tuesday, July 15, 2014. I have attended two meetings where the problem of the eastern red cedar trees was discussed. Because of the drought conditions in Oklahoma, we ...

    July 20, 2014

  • Make gun safety a health issue

    Quick, are you more likely to die by a bullet or in a car crash? Common sense would seem to suggest the latter. Cars are everywhere. We are an auto-obsessed nation. To be American is to drive — everywhere. Teenagers itch to get behind the ...

    July 20, 2014

  • They just want to be free ... maybe

    Massoud Barzani, president of Iraq’s semiautonomous Kurdistan region, rattled many cages this month when he announced in parliament that the KRG would be moving ahead soon on a referendum on independence from Iraq. If Kurdistan goes ahead ...

    July 20, 2014