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Bernard S.
Independent VT

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  • Emergency Unemployment Compensation Extension Act—Motion to Proceed

    by Senator Bernard Sanders

    Posted on 2014-01-08

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    Read More about Emergency Unemployment Compensation Extension Act--Motion to Proceed

    SANDERS. Mr. President, hopefully later this evening or tomorrow there will be a very important vote regarding the extension of long- term unemployment benefits. What that vote is about is to make it very clear which side we are on. Are we prepared to stand with over 1 million workers and their children and say, no, we are not going to turn our back on you, we are not going to leave you literally out in the cold, worrying how you are going to heat your home or pay your rent or put gas in your car or, as fellow Americans, we are going to stand with you and make sure you at least have some income through extended unemployment benefits coming in to your family.

    I think, as we all know, the good news is that unemployment has gone down in recent years. When President Bush left office we were hemorrhaging over 700,000 jobs a month--clearly unsustainable, clearly a tragedy for our Nation. Today, while the economy is nowhere near where it needs to be, where we want it to be, the fact is we are growing several hundred thousand jobs a month. That is the good news. The bad news is that real unemployment is close to 13 percent, if we count those people who have given up looking for work and those people who are working part time when they want to work full time.

    The even worse news is that long-term unemployment today is almost the highest it has ever been on record. Today it takes about 37 weeks for the average unemployed American to find a job. Today, 37 percent of unemployed Americans have been out of work for more than 6 months. Today, there are three job applicants for every one job opening. The reality is there are simply not enough jobs for the 11 million Americans who actively seek work.

    If we do not extend unemployment benefits now for these 1.3 million Americans, the situation will only become worse. By the end of the year, we will be looking at close to 5 million Americans whose benefits will have been exhausted.

    I understand some of my Republican friends are saying, yes, we are prepared to extend these unemployment benefits, but we need an offset. Let me suggest to some of my Republican friends that if that is their position--and I should point out that under President Bush, when long- term unemployment was not as serious a problem as it is today, under President Bush, time and time again, extended unemployment benefits were seen as an emergency and were passed without offsets. But if my Republican friends believe they desperately need an offset now that Barack Obama is President, let me suggest a few of the areas they may want to explore.

    We are losing about $100 billion every single year because corporate America is putting its money into tax havens in the Cayman islands, Bermuda, and elsewhere. If we need an offset, what about telling the one out of four corporations in this country that today pays nothing in Federal taxes that we are going to end their loopholes. Are we prepared to demand that corporate America start paying its fair share of taxes so long-term unemployed Americans can afford to have food on their table or heat in their homes? Many of my Republican colleagues believe we should repeal completely the estate tax, a tax which only applies to the top 3 percent of the wealthiest people in America. We are talking about families such as the Walton family who are worth $100 billion. If some of my Republican friends think the Walton family, the wealthiest family in America, needs another tax break while working Americans who are desperately searching for work should not get any help at all, I suggest to my Republican colleagues they are way out of touch with the values of America and the values that make this a great country.

    I think there are some people who believe the folks who are long-term unemployed right now just do not want to work. That is grossly unfair and grossly untrue. Let me give a few examples. In Hagerstown, MD, 3,600 of our fellow citizens recently applied to work at a dairy farm to process milk and ice cream. This dairy farm will be hiring 36 people. Yet 3,600 people applied for those 36 jobs. Do those people want to work? They sure do.

    Last October, Walmart received over 11,000 job applications for stores they are opening in Washington DC. As we all know, Walmart is not the highest paying employer in America. Yet they received 11,000 applications in the DC area at a time when they will be only hiring 1,800 workers.

    That type of scenario is true in many parts of this country. An employer puts an ad in the paper, makes it known the company needs workers, and they are seeing 10 times as many workers applying for limited jobs.

    The last point I wish to make is not only is this a moral issue, the issue of not turning our backs on people, some of whom who have worked for their entire lives, at this moment when they and their families have so much need--that is the moral issue--but there is an economic component as well. If a long-term unemployed worker does not get the average $300 check he or she would otherwise get, what kind of money does that person have to spend locally? What the economists tell us is that when we dry up that source of spending in communities all over this country, when people do not have the money to buy the goods and services they desperately need, that in itself, that lack of spending, will result in several hundred thousand jobs being lost in the overall economy. So not extending unemployment not only hurts the individual, it hurts our overall economy, and the economists also tell us that not extending long-term unemployment benefits will reduce our GDP by about .2 percent.

    We have a moral issue. We have an economic issue. If my Republican colleagues want offsets, there are more than enough offsets available if they are prepared to ask some of the wealthiest people in this country and some of the largest corporations in America to start paying their fair share of taxes. But the bottom line is that in an economy which today is still hurting very deeply, we cannot punish people who are severely in need.

    I yield the floor and suggest the absence of a quorum.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.

    The legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.

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