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Sunday, October 23, 2016

Talks in the Senate to extend emergency unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed collapsed on Tuesday, dooming the chance for the bill to be brought to the floor for a vote. As a result, emergency unemployment benefits created during the financial crisis to assist millions of Americans remain restricted.

The breakdown of negotiations on this bill may signal typical Washington dysfunction, but for congressional Democrats seeking re-election in 2014, it may signal something else: opportunity.

Economic issues, be they unemployment benefits, the minimum wage, or strengthening the middle class, are paramount to a large number of voters. They’re also issues on which Democratic candidates can capitalize.

A recent Rasmussen poll found that an overwhelming majority of American voters view the economy as the top issue in the 2014 congressional elections. According to the poll, 75 percent of likely voters listed it as the most important factor influencing their vote. More important for Democrats, voters side with them on specific economic issues that are being debated in Congress.

On something like unemployment benefits, there are statistical arguments to be made that reinforce the Democratic position. Broadly, economists widely agree that an extension to unemployment benefits will be beneficial to the U.S. economy. More specifically, the Economic Policy Institute argues, “Continuing the extensions through 2014 would generate spending that would support 310,000 jobs. If this program is discontinued, the economy will lose these jobs.

An extension to unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed is a slam-dunk for Democrats on a political level—it is neither controversial nor an economic risk. Popular with voters, it is an issue that both directly aligns them with the Democratic Party and touches a wide range of voting blocs. As The Washington Post’s Wonk Blog points out, the long-term unemployed are a diverse group; they are young people just out of college, middle-aged workers, high-school dropouts, or married with children.

This graph, put together by The Carville-Greenberg Memo, shows just how popular extending benefits for the long-term unemployed is to voters:


Republican leadership in the House is open to extending long-term unemployment benefits, but only if the extension is “paid for.” House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said House Republicans “would consider extending emergency unemployment benefits if it was paid for and if there were provisions that we could agree to that get our economy moving again.”

But cuts to other popular social programs, which would “pay for” unemployment benefits, remain extremely unpopular. A new survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation/Robert Wood Johnson Foundation/Harvard School of Public Health shows that a clear majority of Americans—58 percent—want no cuts to programs like Social Security and Medicare. But 71 percent would be open to cuts in defense spending, according to the poll.

Another “social safety net” issue Democrats stand to gain supporters on is the effort to raise the minimum wage. Like an extension to unemployment benefits, there is the statistical evidence put forth by hundreds of economists for why an increase would be beneficial to the U.S. economy. It would be “an effective means of improving living standards for low-wage workers and their families and will help stabilize the economy. The costs to other groups in society will be modest and readily absorbed,” wrote over 100 economists in a June 2013 letter.

As The National Memo has pointed out time and again, raising the minimum wage would be an obviously beneficial political move for Democrats. A July Hart Research Poll found that an increase is supported by 90 percent of Democrats, 80 percent of Independents, and 62 percent of Republicans. Furthermore, a November Gallup poll found support for the issue in similar numbers to the research done by Hart:

minimum wage

The widespread support among voters for hallmark Democratic economic policies prompts us to ask: What do Democrats stand to lose by playing up these policies? And what do they stand to win?

AFP Photo/Jewel Samad

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Copyright 2014 The National Memo
  • John Kruger

    I still recall the popularity of background checks for gun ownership in the wake of the Colorado shooting, but that never happened. I would love to see Congress actually do something to address the problems of all Americans, but I fear it is far too broken in it’s current state to do anything but support it’s lobbyist’s interests. We desperately need an increase in minimum wage, but I doubt it will happen.

    • Mark Forsyth

      Most of us here,if not all,are well aware of congressional dysfunction.However the only thing that negative thinking will produce is negative results.I sympathize with your frustration.The majority of the country feels it, but we are not beyond having our well founded reasons for hope.Keep a good thought and Carry On my friend.

      • John Kruger

        I will sure as heck keep voting in every election I am able, my expectations are just miserably low.

        • Dee

          Some people can afford to be happy and carefree where as there are many myself included cant help but feel negative when all that stands in front of us is more of the same, its not like we are not trying to rise above it all of course we are! but as anyone can see when were out making those ends meet the very same ends that at one time seemed okay and were met without giving up anything else up its a tad hard to be positive and once in awhile saying so makes us feel better ..The way I see it the only thing that will change anything is the people cause I just cant seem to believe our Politicians want too the people no longer matter to them but our votes will as long as all people stop being blind to their party and vote what is best for the majority and today we are a huge majority in the same boat Peace John Like Mark said keep a good thought ..

        • Allan Richardson

          It takes more than voting your own ballot. It takes money (whatever you can spare), activism, spreading the message (despite what your crazy uncle says at holiday dinners), and letting even right wing friends know that the HARM TO THEMSELVES and the country from right wing rule is MORE IMPORTANT than abortions, gay marriages, flag burnings, mosques in their communities, or whatever other “junk” issue the right wing brings up. Oh, and to get them to understand that right wing politicians and pundits LIE TO THEM.

    • DAVE in VA

      John, We already have background checks for Gun ownership. The system we have is called NICS (National Instant Criminal Background Check System) it is part of the FBI system, anytime someone buys a gun from a FFL (Federial Firearms License)dealer they get a back ground check in 2013 they did 21,093,635 background checks that is up from previous years.In your post above you are talking about the Aurora Colorado shooting.
      The person who did that to those people had serious mental problums. When he purchased those guns he was not in the system.He passed the back ground check at that time. They had no record of his problums no one knew at the time.Some time after he purched those weapons people who knew him started telling his school professorers that they thought that he needed help.Buy the time he started to get help it was to late.His psychiatrist did not fill out the paper work and get it in the system. She went on vacation and while she was gone he did the crine at the movie theater. Reports show that he went to four different movie theaters he pick out the one he wanted to use.The one he picked had a sign in the front window that said no concealed weapons allowed. He knew he would be abel to do a lot of harm befour cops could arrive to the scene. States that has very tough gun laws have the highest crime rates. The criminals will never obey the laws that are allready on the books. The only way to slow down the gun crimes is to educate people.To the other part of your post both partys are to blame for our problums. The President the Senate and the House are all to blame for our problumes in the country. This country will not get any better until we get term limits on ALL of the career politicians. In the picture above of you and the new baby CONGRATULATIONS to you and your new family member.

      • Allan Richardson

        The latest theater shooting, in Florida, was BY A RETIRED COP. If retired police officers are just as likely to become the murderers as to stop one, just how strict SHOULD background checks be? Maybe only law abiding VULCANS, who have no emotions to be aroused?

  • Lovefacts

    The problem, IMO, is that our elected officials are more interested in staying in office, which means bowing before the super rich, than helping the country its citizens. As a result, many Democrats will espouse conservative Republican views because they fear they won’t get re-elected. What they don’t get is that Democrats ONLY WIN when the stand for Democratic/Progressive values, such as: a jobs bill, an infrastructure bill, another/modern Glass Steagall bill, and finally, how about not fast tracking and then rubber stamping trade bills that hurt the workers of America–this is especially true for TPP, which IMO violates and/or voids certain constitutional and sovereignty guarantees. Unfortunately, both the Senate and Congress only fear the big money donors and not voter outrage because so few people vote.

  • Dee

    I would hope that the DEMS were planning to not only run on that but to mean it when they do…