Earlier this week, the Senate passed a bill to extend long-term unemployment insurance, a measure that would restore assistance to the estimated 1.3 million workers whose benefits expired at the end of December. And while just six Republican senators joined the majority, the bill was pronounced “bipartisan.” Apparently this is what passes for Republican participation these days.
House Speaker John Boehner’s response to the Senate’s action was that the UI extension would need to be paid for with cuts elsewhere, and also include incentives for the unemployed to get back to work. Instead of trying to extend unemployment insurance, Boehner said, the House should “remain focused on growing the economy.” As the Speaker himself might put it: ARE YOU KIDDING ME?
Economists widely agree that unemployment insurance does not have a deleterious effect on the economy. On the contrary, it is quite beneficial. Our very smart friends at the Economic Policy Institute “find that 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.” The EPI further reports that “insurance benefit extensions through 2014 would generate a $37.8 billion increase in GDP.”
Given this, one would think that extending unemployment benefits must be politically controversial, because clearly it is not bad for the economy. But according to a December poll conducted by our colleagues at Hart Research Associates, the opposite is true — just a third of Americans oppose extending unemployment insurance. Additionally, maintaining these benefits has a 2-to-1 intensity advantage (those who say they strongly support or do not support extension).
We repeat: ARE YOU KIDDING ME?
For more polling and expert analysis, visit DemocracyCorps.com
Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr