Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Unemployment insurance extension and the State of the Union

I watched tonight's State of the Union address and marveled that the entire speech was organized around the conflict between austerity and sustainability, with President Obama consistently coming down on the side of sustainability.  It fits what I've been blogging about here for the past three years, as I've written about every major topic Obama mentioned at least once, some of them, such as energy, education, healthcare, and technological innovation many times.  I felt validated.  It also reminded me that I have a long backlog of material from the past two months of Overnight News Digests on Daily Kos about healthcare and energy that I need to post here.  Before I do that, I have one item that I had given up on, extending unemployment insurance.  I thought that was stalled, if not dead.  I was wrong.

First, here is the video and story from KPBS: Rep. Susan Davis Hopes Congress Extends Long-Term Unemployment Benefits.

San Diego congresswoman Susan Davis spent the morning discussing the impact of the congressional decision to let benefits for long-term unemployment, expire late last year. More than 1.3 million people lost the federal aide in December.
The accompanying article has more.
Davis spoke with San Diegans who had been affected directly by the decision. Eugene Beronilla, 38, was employed in the health care industry until June 2012. He has been struggling since the federal checks stopped coming shortly after Christmas.

“As confidence falls, financial pressures mount, anxiety increases, and we begin to take desperate measures just to survive on a daily basis,” Beronilla said. “Those federal extensions do make a difference, particularly in the case of having stable housing or having to find another place to live.”
I was thinking about posting that yesterday, but decided against it.  Then, the President included the following in his prepared remarks.
I’m also convinced we can help Americans return to the workforce faster by reforming unemployment insurance so that it’s more effective in today’s economy.  But first, this Congress needs to restore the unemployment insurance you just let expire for 1.6 million people.

Let me tell you why.

Misty DeMars is a mother of two young boys. She’d been steadily employed since she was a teenager.  She put herself through college.  She’d never collected unemployment benefits.  In May, she and her husband used their life savings to buy their first home.  A week later, budget cuts claimed the job she loved.  Last month, when their unemployment insurance was cut off, she sat down and wrote me a letter – the kind I get every day.  “We are the face of the unemployment crisis,” she wrote.  “I am not dependent on the government…Our country depends on people like us who build careers, contribute to society…care about our neighbors…I am confident that in time I will find a job…I will pay my taxes, and we will raise our children in their own home in the community we love.  Please give us this chance.”

Congress, give these hardworking, responsible Americans that chance.  They need our help, but more important, this country needs them in the game.
Thank you, Mr. President, for reminding Congress about doing this.  With luck, they'll do as you ask.  If not, well, the Republicans have just given the Democrats another campaign issue.  You win either way.  I'd prefer the former, as the American people win, too.

I'll have more on the other topics later.  I'm also hoping for material that will make another entry like Obama loved science in the State of the Union easy to write.  May I be so lucky.

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