On December 28, roughly 1.3 million Americans lost their unemployment insurance after Congress failed to renew an emergency program that would have extended benefits for the long-term jobless.
Three weeks later, lawmakers are still dithering. Some high-profile Republicans have joined Democrats in supporting another extension of the Emergency Unemployment Compensation program, although they disagree over how it should be funded. Others, like Senator Rand Paul, have suggested that providing unemployment insurance longer than the typical 26 weeks does workers “a disservice,” lulling them into complacency.
There are a number of reasons why Paul's comments were off base, from the bleak moral vision they represent to the numerous studies showing unemployment insurance actually helps workers stay in the labor force. But perhaps the most obvious rebuttal is this: Four years into the economic recovery, there are still less than 4 million job openings for more than 10 million unemployed people. Including the nearly 1 million Americans who also have no job but are counted as “discouraged” rather than “unemployed,” that's approximately three job applicants per available position.
For the millions of Americans without work or a financial lifeline, “get a job” isn't a policy solution. It's out-of-touch Washington condescension at its worst.