Jobless benefits set to expire today

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 28, 2013

Dec. 28 hardly seems like a
significant date in the grand scheme of things. Sandwiched between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, it is a date that for many will be mostly spent traveling to or from holiday destinations or getting ready for the festivities of Dec. 31.
But for 1.3 million Americans, the date will be remembered for something else. Dec. 28, 2013 is the final day more than 1 million jobless Americans will be cut off from federal extended unemployment benefits.
Although Congress had originally agreed to a longer term, the benefits were one of the casualties of the last-minute budget deal reached earlier this month.
When the deal was passed, it was hailed as a triumph of bipartisanship, if only because it was the first time either side had agreed to any sort of compromise in quite some time. It was also the first time Congress passed any sort of budget since 2009. But amid Congress’ bipartisan back patting, it seems a large part of the citizenry has been left out in the cold.
While “entitlements,” of which unemployment benefits could be considered part, have been a hot-button issue lately, cutting unemployment could end up exacerbating the spending problem.
Many of those currently on unemployment are victims of the struggling economy. Although unemployment numbers seem to be on a bit of a rebound, new job creation has been maddeningly slow. What’s more, many of those laid off at the height of the recession were older workers who made larger salaries, and these workers face an uphill battle when trying to secure new employment.
Also, those on unemployment must be actively seeking employment, unlike recipients of welfare or food stamps. But taking away these benefits may not only take away the motivation to continue an extended job search but also place those whose benefits have run out in other programs such as welfare.
So in a sense, cutting the unemployment benefits may be nothing more than shuffling the expenditures to another area.
But if thousands of jobless quit the job search, it may actually improve America’s unemployment numbers, which, in turn, will
help out politicians’ re-election campaigns. And we all know
that is Congress’ main interest anyway.