U.S. jobless aid should go to all

With the ballooning federal deficit in mind, Congress is temporizing on extending unemployment pay. A bill has passed the House giving another 13 weeks of benefits to the jobless in states with an unemployment rate above 8.5 percent. But senators from states that would be left out have heard from their voters.
A compromise offering four more weeks of help to the unemployed in all 50 states but 17 more weeks to the 27 states where the rate is above 8.5 percent has been proposed.
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire made the obvious comment: “Unemployed workers face equally severe challenges no matter what state they live in, and they should be given the support they need.”
Of course. All who have lost their jobs and their incomes face the same challenges, regardless of the unemployment rate in their states — to the man who lost his job, the rate is 100 percent.
From the big picture point of view, the cash benefits that go to the unemployed are the purest kind of economic stimulus. The U.S. economy depends largely upon consumer spending. It is safe to assume that the checks received by the unemployed will be cashed and spent almost as soon as they are received.
While economic growth has returned, bringing the recession to an end in a technical sense, unemployment continues to rise and no one is attempting to guess when that statistic will reverse itself. The quickest way to create consumer demand is to put money in the hands of consumers who have lost their jobs. Extending jobless benefits — and perhaps increasing them — also makes life more bearable for those families and individuals who are suffering the most from the recession, a result that is even more important to the health of the nation than putting more dollars in retailers’ cash registers.
Those who want to limit the extension to the high unemployment states argue that their limits would still cover most of the long-term unemployed.
“A report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimated that more than 80 percent of the projected 1.3 million people who will exhaust their benefits by the end of the year come from states where the jobless rate is at least 8.5 percent. In California, with a jobless rate of 11.9 percent, 154,000 could run out of benefits by the end of the year. In Florida, with a 10.7 percent rate, the number is 114,500,” the Associated Press reported.
But this arbitrary line-drawing leaves out the jobless in states like Kansas where unemployment may be less, but average annual incomes are far below those in California, Florida and many other of the high- unemployment states.
Congress should listen to Sen. Shaheen and those who, like her, understand that unemployment happens to individuals and their families, regardless of where they live, and that federal aid should go to all for the same reasons that it should go to any.

— Emerson Lynn, jr.