Unless unemployment benefits are extended in the next few months, six million Americans will lose their benefits in 2012, including one million in January alone. This will suck $57 billion out of the economy in the first quarter of next year.
Republicans have turned several extensions of unemployment benefits into political theater, refusing to extend them without offsetting cuts elsewhere in the budget. On CNN’s State of the Union yesterday, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) started this song-and-dance again, telling Candy Crowley that he would not support any plan that extended unemployment benefits without a way to pay for it, because to do otherwise is “to borrow money from China to pay people not to work”:
“If you want to extend unemployment benefits, they have to be paid for,” Paul said. “We have an unemployment program. We have a tax for it. It’s paid for for 26 weeks. So the question is, do we want to borrow money from China to pay people not to work?”
Watch Paul’s comments:
But Paul’s assessment of unemployment benefits vastly underestimates their value. Research has proven that benefits for the long-term unemployed are not weakening job search efforts. And the extended benefits provide necessary support to those who are unemployed and help boost the economy. In fact, unemployment benefits provide some of the highest bang-for-the-buck of any government program.
Already, most jobless Americans are no longer eligible for unemployment benefits. At a time when there are still four job seekers for every opening and many Americans continue to struggle with unemployment, it belittles their struggle for Paul to say that the vital support from unemployment benefits is only paying them “not to work.”