Sequester Slashes Unemployment Benefits, But Not Corporate Welfare

 “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” — Albert Einstein

What’s worse than Congress obsessively focusing on slashing government spending instead of creating jobs? Screwing over all the people who haven’t been able to land non-existent jobs even more by cutting their skimpy unemployment benefits. Who cares that it’s the GOP’s fault that so many folks are unemployed? A bleak January Jobs report proves that their austerity has slowed down our economic recovery, plus their decades of deregulation allowed the banks to wreck our economy in the first place. Let’s keep implementing their sucky policies and see what happens.

Travis Waldron from Think Progress warns that soon the skeletal hand of sequestration will extend its bony fingers to snatch away the long-term jobless’ last lifeline. Thanks to the sequester — which went into effect on March 1st — the federal government’s Emergency Unemployment Compensation will be cut. This program provides extended unemployment benefits for people who’ve been unemployed for longer than six months, after they’ve used up their state benefits. According to Paul Davidson from USA Today, unemployment checks currently average a stingy $300 per week — which MSN Money‘s Life Coach flat-out declares is “nearly impossible” for Americans to get by on for very long. Nonetheless, it’s better than nothing.

Unfortunately, nothing is what many Americans will soon get. Nancy Cook from the National Journal writes that roughly two million people stand to lose their benefits:

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Moreover, they are people whom the political establishment has largely forgotten. There are no new stimulus programs on the horizon for the long-term unemployed, nor is there anything new to help train them or connect them to jobs. Those still receiving benefit checks will see them whacked by as much as $450 in total between now and the end of the fiscal year in September, according to Labor Department estimates—all due to spending cuts that both parties consider ill-advised and indiscriminate.

Even more alarmingly, Waldron also reports that eight states have already brutally slashed their unemployment programs, with an estimated loss of $582-$4,161 per unemployed person, depending on their state. And … big surprise! Five out of eight of these states are in the South (more on that shortly).

Weeks of unemployment benefits lost, due to cuts to state programs in eight states

Weeks of unemployment benefits lost, due to state cuts. Chart from Think Progress.

According to Waldron, cutting unemployment benefits will further slow the economy:

America’s unemployment program, stingy as it is, also has benefits for the economy: the Congressional Budget Office estimated that failure to extend the federal program at the beginning of the year would have cost the country 300,000 jobs.

This would force even more desperate people to take sub-living wage jobs with crappy employers like Walmart — if they’re even still hiring — and force American tax payers to cover food stamps, housing subsidies, and other necessities that these jobs don’t pay enough for workers to afford. Well, at least until the Republicans cut those programs as well. Walmart IS the original corporate welfare queen, after all.

Furthermore, IF you agree that (a) Forcing people to work for less than a living wage is a form of slavery; (b) Republican policies are dominated by southerners; and (c) The South’s lack of economic development model has always heavily relied on slave labor (though the skin color of their slaves has changed over the years); THEN it grows increasingly obvious that cutting benefits for unemployed people is just the latest step along the GOP’s primrose path to economic slavery (as brilliantly argued in an article by my AI colleague, Sanghoee, and by Imara Jones in ColorLines).

After forty years of imposing disastrous policies, conservatives have succeeded in wrecking the economy and destroying the middle class job base. Now all they need to do is shred our already-frayed social safety net, and the American people will be primed to do our corporate masters’ bidding.

SPECIAL NOTE TO OUR UNEMPLOYED READERS: If you’re unemployed and worry that you might lose your benefits, my AI colleague Tiffany Willis compiled an extensive list to help you find the resources you need. She knows what’s talking about, because she worked in workforce development for the State of Texas for over a decade. She also invites you to post questions to her on Twitter (@tiffany_willis). She’s only one person and doesn’t have a team of operators standing by, but she loves helping people and will do her best.


Elisabeth Parker Elisabeth Parker is a writer, Web designer, mom, political junkie, and dilettante. Come visit her at ElisabethParker.Com, “like” her on facebook, “friend” her on facebook, follow her on Twitter, or check out her Pinterest boards. For more Addicting Info articles by Elisabeth, click here.