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Extend and expand unemployment benefits

By Fight Back! Editors |
September 22, 2012
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Millions of people are out of work. Those who are laid off are being foreclosed out of their homes, losing health care, and finding it harder and harder to make ends meet. Youth unemployment is particularly high. Even recent college graduates are forced to live in their parents’ homes. Many are unable to make payments on their college loan debt. Being laid off and unable to find work, millions of immigrants, both documented and undocumented, are forced to leave after years of working in the U.S.

Jobs have disappeared and there is no sign that they will be back anytime soon. There are more than 5 million unemployed who have been out of work for more than six months. About 2.5 million of them are collecting extended federal benefits and could be cut off in 2013. Most of the rest have exhausted their benefits. We demand that the government acts now to extend and expand benefits to the unemployed.

Incredibly enough, a host of right-wing politicians are trying to demonize the unemployed and to blame people who are out of work for the lack of jobs. So they take a page from the welfare bashers and propose drug test requirements for unemployment benefits. They say that the unemployed are lazy and are a ‘drag’ on the economy. Then they turn around and propose some new tax breaks for the rich.

Here is the deal. There are 4 million fewer jobs today than there was when the economic crisis unfolded in late 2007. At the current rate of job growth – which is minimal at best – it will take about four more years to regain those lost jobs. That’s if there is not a new economic downturn or capitalist crisis. By all indications, we are in for a long period of time with high unemployment rates.

On top of this, because of racist discrimination against oppressed nationalities in this country - African Americans, Chicano/Latinos, and Native peoples - unemployment rates in these communities are much higher. Not a little higher, much higher. For example, the unemployment rate for African Americans is double to that of whites.

There are not enough jobs for workers who need and want them. This has nothing to do with being lazy, or the level of training or education for that matter. It’s true that if one gets more education there are more opportunities for any given individual. But it’s also true that more education and job training does not change the overall number of folks unemployed. And that is why there are plenty of college grads and skilled workers in the ranks of the jobless.

The one-percenters in Congress want to make life a lot harder for the unemployed. At the beginning of next year, 2013, federal Extended Unemployment Compensation (EUC) will expire. This means that the only unemployment compensation out there will be what is provided by individual state governments. Typically this means benefits for only 26 weeks. Given what is going on in Washington D.C., especially the unending coddling of that failed class which bills itself as “jobs creators,” allowing Extended Unemployment Compensation to lapse would be nothing short of criminal.

The heat needs to be put on the politicians to preserve the federal Extended Unemployment Compensation. And there needs to be a political debate about it. Not only should Unemployment Compensation be extended, it should be expanded to last longer and include more people. If there are no jobs, unemployment benefits should last as long as it takes for new jobs to come into being and for the unemployed to find them. Undocumented workers who are laid off should also be eligible. It’s contrary to the notions of fairness and equality that a factory can be shut down and you have undocumented workers with five, ten, or more years of seniority, who pay taxes – and who are unable to get unemployment benefits just like other workers.

The only reason that unemployment compensation exists at all is because the working class demanded and fought for it. As the economic crisis deepened in the early 1930s, hundreds of thousands of workers, most organized by communists, staged dramatic demonstrations on the streets of U.S. cities and towns demanding “work or wages,” and unemployment insurance for the unemployed. We need that same will to fight and win today. The 1%, along with their bought and paid for politicians are not going to give us anything we are not organized to take.

Jobs or Income Now!

Defend and Expand Unemployment Insurance!

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