By: Rep. Lloyd Doggett
A recent bumper sticker captures it all: “Republicans 2012: Keeping millions out of work to put one man out of a job.”
As the ranking member of the subcommittee charged with overseeing unemployment programs, I have experienced the Republicans’ failure to permit a vote on a single meaningful jobs bill this entire year. I also watched, with the nation, as the Republicans’ threats to default on our debt and shut down the government set back economic recovery and cost us job growth.
Thursday, my subcommittee plans to hold a hearing about the parts of President Barack Obama’s jobs bill related to unemployment. This includes an extension of federal unemployment insurance, as well as new initiatives designed to help the jobless return to work.
If Congress fails to act by Dec. 31, more than 2 million Americans lose their unemployment benefits by mid-February, and a total of more than 6 million will likely lose benefits during 2012.
Terminating unemployment assistance also hurts our economy by suppressing consumer demand and confidence. Allowing this federal unemployment program to expire would cost our nation more than 500,000 jobs, according to the Economic Policy Institute. The means a double-whammy for the unemployed — they lose their benefits and jobs also become even more difficult to find.
There is near unanimity among economists that few government expenditures have a more positive, stimulative effect than insurance payments to the unemployed — who spend those dollars quickly to pay for life’s necessities.
My hope is that Thursday’s crucial hearing can provide a glimmer of hope that Republicans are finally prepared to move in a different direction. My Republican colleagues must stop their “blame the victim” approach, as I have repeatedly urged them. They must refrain from blaming unemployment on the unemployed.