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  • Unemployment Insurance

    by Representative Sander M. Levin

    Posted on 2014-01-15

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    LEVIN. Mr. Speaker, as we meet, 1.5 million Americans are out in the cold, long-term unemployed, and added to that total 72,000 each week, an estimated, if we don't act, 3.6 million by the end of this year. Why is this? Partly because of myths, and I want to address them.



    Myth one: the need for these benefits is over.

    The truth, nearly 38 percent of the jobless are long-term unemployed, twice the rate when the emergency program started. The highest ever recorded before this recession was 26 percent of the unemployed were long-term.

    Myth two: unemployment insurance creates dependency. As Senator Rand Paul claimed, it is a ``disservice.'' The long-term unemployed in these eyes need to get off their duffs. It is this Congress that needs to get off its duff because the overwhelming research rebuts this notion. Indeed, unemployment insurance helps people look for work. People have said, we need gas money to go and look for a job. Recipients must actively look for work under the rules within their States. By the way, the average benefit is $300 a week.

    Myth three: jobs are there.

    Get off your couch, it said, look. Wal-Mart came to D.C., had 600 jobs available; 23,000 people applied. A dairy in Hagerstown, Maryland, reopened; 36 jobs were available; 1,600 job applications. There are still 1 million fewer jobs today than when the recession began in 2007.

    Myth four: North Carolina shows if you end unemployment insurance, the unemployment rate goes down because people go to work.

    That is a myth. The unemployment rate in North Carolina went down primarily because people stopped looking for work. They gave up. This isn't America. It should not be North Carolina.

    Myth 5: ninety-nine weeks is far too many.

    Actually, the program hasn't had this emergency program 99 weeks for over 2 years. Last year, the longest was 73 weeks and only 3 States had that level. The average nationwide is 54 weeks. Now just one of four unemployed receive unemployment benefits at all, the lowest on record.

    Myth six: you need to reduce the program as the unemployment rate goes down.

    That is already done. We have four tiers, and already the amount of available benefits goes down in a State as the unemployment rate goes down.

    The next myth: an extension must be offset.

    This is an emergency program. None of the five UI extensions signed into law by President Bush--none of the five--was offset.

    {time} 1045 People don't need it, is the next myth. In 2012--this is the Census Bureau information--this program lifted 2.5 million people out of poverty.

    The next myth, what we need--and we hear this all the time--is economic growth, not unemployment insurance. Well, the GOP has stymied every key program to assist recovery, the infrastructure, whatever. The fact is that unemployment insurance helps economic growth. The CBO estimates 200,000 fewer jobs this year without an extension.

    As we fight in this institution over issues of economic growth, let us not punish the long-term unemployed.

    I was reading a statement by the president of the conservative think tank, American Enterprise Institute, an interview with him in October. And he said this: One of the things, in my view, that we get wrong in the free enterprise movement is this war against the social safety net, which is just insane. The government social safety net for the truly indigent is one of the greatest achievements of our society. And we somehow want to zero out food stamps or something. It's nuts to want to be doing something like that. We have to declare peace on the safety net.

    The Congress needs to act and the Republicans need to end their war on the long-term unemployed.

    ____________________

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