By Robert Reich
Former U.S. Secretary of Labor, Professor at Berkeley
America’s long-term unemployed — an estimated 4 million or more — constitute the single newest and biggest social problem facing America.
Now their unemployment benefits are about to run out, and the lame-duck Congress may not have the votes to extend them. (You can forget about the next Congress.)
The long-term unemployed can’t get work because there are still five people needing work for every job opening. And the long-term jobless are often at the end of the job line: Either they don’t have the right skills or enough eduction, or have been out of work so long prospective employers are nervous about hiring them.
They’re also a big problem for the economy. Without enough money in their pockets, they and their families can’t pay their mortgages, which keeps fueling the mortgage crisis. Nor can they replace worn-out cars and clothing, or buy much of anything else, which is a drag on the economy.
Republicans and many blue-dog Democrats say we can’t afford another extension.
But these are many of the same people who say we should extend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy for at least another two years.
Extending the Bush tax cuts for the top 1 percent would cost an estimated $120 billion over the next two years. That’s more than another unemployment benefit extension would cost.
The unemployed need the money. The rich don’t. (more…)