Congressman: Extending Safety Net For Long-Term Unemployed Is ‘Immoral’


It is immoral to extend a meager monthly allowance to unemployed Americans still looking for work more than six months after losing their jobs, according to Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX), which is why he and his fellow House conservatives are blocking Democrats’ efforts to reinstate the safety net program.

“I believe it is immoral for this country to have as a policy extending long-term unemployments [benefits] to people rather than us working on the creation of jobs,” Sessions said Tuesday on the House floor in response to questions about his party’s refusal to allow a vote on reinstating the Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) program.

There were 1.3 million people receiving EUC when the program’s authorization expired on December 28, 2013. Since then, an estimated 300,000 other job-seekers have exhausted their state-level unemployment insurance benefits, pushing the total number of unemployed left without EUC to 1.6 million. As a group they have over 2.3 million children economically dependent upon them. The number being hurt by the failure to renew EUC rises by tens of thousands every week.

Sessions went on to say that job creation is vital in part because working gives a person “self-respect enough to know that jobs are important,” and that “too much of the time we have been hung up on, instead of job creation, we talk about the symptoms that are related to unemployment and long-term unemployment.” The long-term unemployed know better than most how important a job is, however, and how impossible jobs are to find right now.

These are people who have spent six months and longer sending out job applications by the hundreds without success. It is hard enough for any unemployed person to find work given that there are about three job-seekers for every job opening nationwide. But the long-term unemployed face even higher hurdles. Hiring managers view a lengthy stint of unemployment as disqualifying. Research shows that being out of work for nine months has the same effect as reducing an applicant’s work experience by four full years. A freshly out-of-work applicant gets called back about 16 percent of the time when she applies for a job, but that rate falls to 3 percent for the long-term unemployed. Only a handful of states ban discrimination against the unemployed.

Cutting these people off of benefits doesn’t help them get work. It makes it harder by undercutting the basic income they need to afford to hunt for jobs online, get to interviews and look presentable, and keep themselves and their families from sliding into poverty or homelessness. Unemployed people receiving benefits spend more time on the job hunt than unemployed people without that safety net.

The cessation of EUC has also pulled nearly $2 billion out of state economies already, which exacerbates unemployed people’s plight by undermining the consumer spending needed to drive businesses to hire more people.

Sessions’ comments are reminiscent of other Republicans’ criticisms of unemployment insurance, such as Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) calling it “a disservice” to recipients.