Failure to Extend Unemployment Benefits: The New 'Giant Sucking Sound'

H. Ross Perot and Then DC Mayor Adrian Fenty in 2009Ross Perot coined the phrase “giant sucking sound” in the Presidential debates of 1998. He was talking about the jobs he (correctly) predicted that would leave the United States in the search for cheaper labor if we passed NAFTA.

Today’s giant sucking sound is the $25 billion not going into our economy if Congress doesn’t pass an extension of the federal supplemental unemployment insurance for those facing long-term joblessness due to the Great Recession.

The giant sucking sound started this past Saturday, as 1.3 million Americans lost an average of $277 a week in these benefits while they look for work. Another 600,000 are expected to have their benefits run out before June.

Many in Congress don’t seem to be able to empathize with the unemployed struggling to survive on $277 a week. They think that if these people had their benefits eliminated that they would go out and take a lesser paying job. But even if these mostly college educated folks previously making $50,000 or more did find these mythical 1.3 million minimum wage jobs available today, what jobs would remain for those less skilled looking for work?

The other argument the critics use is that they want it to be revenue neutral. No problem. Just eliminate the off-shore tax havens for multinational corporations that are costing us well over $25 billion a year and not benefiting the taxpayers one bit.

Maybe those who oppose extending the supplemental unemployment insurance benefits should be thinking of these unemployed as conduits for funneling money into our local economies. These unemployed could be considered as pass-through agents for helping out our country’s businesses — including small businesses.

That is exactly where the $277 it going. It is paying the rent or mortgage. It is paying for transportation, food, clothes and utilities. All the necessities. It is not going into savings or Wall Street (although I can assure you that if this money was being funneled through some New York hedge fund account the benefits would have already been extended).

The giant sucking sound we hear is the wind going out of the recovery. The economy is predicted to lose 310,000 jobs and the country’s annual growth rate will be trimmed by 0.4 percent in the next 3 months without the extension of these benefits.

What we need is a giant sucking sound of common sense, economic logic and compassion flowing into many in Congress.

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