Funding Extended Unemployment and Bailout Out the States
For the umpteenth time, funding extended unemployment has been brought up, fillibustered and debated. In the past, the leadership kept Congress going until someone caved. This time, it did not happen, largely due to the pressures of the July 4th recess and to take time out to bury Robert Byrd.
In the interim, people are losing their benefits. At the same time, many states, indeed the vast majority, are facing budget cuts - some draconian - as the new fiscal year begins.
I am not sure that letting Senators and Members go home and face the music is not a bad idea. I would hope that whenever one of them makes a public appearance or holds a town meeting, they hear from local government officials, people who have lost or are about to lose their benefits and those agencies who are providing stop-gap assistance.
Of course, in DC (where this diary is being written), the member is always at home and knows full well how bad the problem is - although joblessness among the poor in DC is not as sexy as joblessness in the hinterlands. Additionally, because she has not vote and there are no voting (or non-voting) members of the Senate, the voice of DC voters on these issues does not matter.
In Virginia and Maryland, this is another matter - although most area members are on the right side of the issue - although it is still a good idea to remind the Democrats that we feel this is important and give them some stories to use in debate when this issue comes up again. E-mail is also a good way to tell your story to your Senator. Go to http://house.gov and http://senate.gov to share your story. You can also make policy suggestions on how to deal with this issue. Here is what I told my Congressman, Jim Moran, and my Senators, Jim Webb and Mark Warner (feel free to cut and paste):
It is time to get serious on extending Unemployment Insurance. The Republicans keep demanding that we pay for extending coverage. I say we call their bluff and fully fund extended unemployment on a permanent basis in the only way that it is appropriate to do so, by raising the payroll tax on employer who have layed people off (leaving the base rate unchanged). Indeed, while we are at it, the amount of benefits should also be increased (and funded by an increase to the base rate). Put this proposal front and center and dare the Republicans to vote against incentives to avoid unemployment and the extended unemployed. If this is the only alternative, we will hear nothing more from them again on funding this emergency through deficit spending.
On a related topic, I hope that during this recess you have heard from our local elected officials on their fiscal situation and are ready to come back to work with a stimulus that includes aid to the states.
Finally, let me suggest that a tax rebate that distributes money in November and December will be just in time for Christmas. Indeed, for some families, it will be the only Christmas they see - and for retailers too. This rebate should be for everyone - including people with no tax liability and even for people who owe back taxes to the IRS (normally rebates go to tax debt - this year the merchants need it more).