Perino Confirms White House Won’t Extend Jobless Benefits, Says People Should Just Find A Job

During today’s press briefing, White House press secretary Dana Perino suggested the Bush administration would oppose any effort to extend jobless benefits — a stance the White House has taken before. She explained their position by saying, “we want people to be able to return to the workplace as soon as possible.” The suggestion was that extending benefits somehow prevents people from returning to work.

She concluded by saying that “the best way to help” the economy and unemployed people is for unemployed people to simply “get back to work.” Watch it:

It is both insulting and naive to suggest that people aren’t working because jobless benefits are somehow too generous and they’re too lazy to look for work again. People aren’t working because Bushonomics have hemorrhaged jobs and slashed the safety nets for laid off workers:

— The Department of Labor reported last week that the country shed 159,000 jobs in September, and the unemployment rate has increased to its highest level in five years.

— The Washington Post reported yesterday that “unemployment claims are at a seven-year high, and factory orders are sharply down. … Small businesses can’t get financing.”

— According to a July survey by the National Conference of State Legislatures, states are being forced to slash spending and cut jobs “in order to close a projected $40 billion shortfall in the current fiscal year,” more than triple the size of the previous year’s.

State jobless funds are drying out. According to the National Employment Law Project, at least 11 states are facing financial challenges paying their jobless benefits.

The Bush administration’s refusal to extend a helping hand to those punished by the economy it created is nothing new: Last month, the White House threatened to veto a second stimulus package over opposition to an expansion of food stamps benefits.


Q You mentioned earlier about the pain everybody is feeling as a result of all this. Well, the House passed an unemployment extension bill, which would extend unemployment for all states for seven weeks, and for those that have high unemployment, above six percent, for an additional 13. Would the White House support this bill?

MS. PERINO: Well, Paula, I don’t even think — Congress is not even in session, so there’s no legislation moving through Congress. We have supported unemployment benefit extensions in the past, although we wanted a shorter period of time than many had wanted. I don’t know if there’s some people recommending a 26-week extension. We cut that back to 13 weeks back in June. One of the reasons that we did that is because we want people to be able to return to the workplace as soon as possible.

So unless legislation starts moving that I’m not aware of when Congress isn’t here, I don’t know how we could support it.

Q The Senate comes back in November — November 17th —

MS. PERINO: Well, let’s take it up then, Paula. I mean, it’s October 8th; there’s a long way to go between now and then.

Q I know, but in the meantime, there are people that won’t have unemployment checks between October 15th —

MS. PERINO: Well, my point is, Paula, that one of the things that we want is we want people to be able to return to work. We understand that there are people that are hurting, but we’ve already extended the unemployment benefits. But if legislation isn’t moving between now and November 17th, if then, there’s not a lot that we can do in terms of getting a law passed.

Q So you assume that in states that have high unemployment that those people will be able to find jobs between October and —

MS. PERINO: I hope that everybody who wants to find a job is able to find a job. I can only imagine the anxiety for people who are looking for a job and can’t find one. And it’s hard to put myself in their shoes because I haven’t been in that situation. But obviously states — and there are many of them — that have high unemployment rates have a lot of people who are suffering. But getting back to work would be the best way to help all of us, collectively, them individually, and then us as a country.