In his weekly radio address today, President Obama lashed out at Senate Republicans who are blocking an extension of unemployment benefits. Obama essentially called the Republicans hypocrites, “They’ve got no problem spending money on tax breaks for folks at the top who don’t need them and didn’t even ask for them; but they object to helping folks laid off in this recession who really do need help.”
Here is the video:
The President discussed the 2 million people who have lost their unemployment benefits, and the Senate efforts to extend those benefits, “Think about what these stalling tactics mean for the millions of Americans who’ve lost their jobs since the recession began. Over the past several weeks, more than two million of them have seen their unemployment insurance expire. For many, it was the only way to make ends meet while searching for work – the only way to cover rent, utilities, even food. Three times, the Senate has tried to temporarily extend that emergency assistance. And three times, a minority of Senators – basically the same crowd who said “no” to small businesses – said “no” to folks looking for work, and blocked a straight up-or-down vote. “
Obama took on the GOP notion that unemployment benefits are welfare, “Some Republican leaders actually treat this unemployment insurance as if it’s a form of welfare. They say it discourages folks from looking for work. Well, I’ve met a lot of folks looking for work these past few years, and I can tell you, I haven’t met any Americans who would rather have an unemployment check than a meaningful job that lets you provide for your family. And we all have friends, neighbors, or family members who already knows how hard it is to land a job when five workers are competing for every opening. Now in the past, Presidents and Congresses of both parties have treated unemployment insurance for what it is – an emergency expenditure. That’s because an economic disaster can devastate families and communities just as surely as a flood or tornado. “
He then took aim at the hypocrisy of the Republican position, “Suddenly, Republican leaders want to change that. They say we shouldn’t provide unemployment insurance because it costs money. So after years of championing policies that turned a record surplus into a massive deficit, including a tax cut for the wealthiest Americans, they’ve finally decided to make their stand on the backs of the unemployed. They’ve got no problem spending money on tax breaks for folks at the top who don’t need them and didn’t even ask for them; but they object to helping folks laid off in this recession who really do need help. And every day this goes on, another 50,000 Americans lose that badly needed lifeline.”
The President then stated the obvious. Unemployment benefits jump start the economy, The fact is, most economists agree that extending unemployment insurance is one of the single most cost-effective ways to help jumpstart the economy. It puts money into the pockets of folks who not only need it most, but who also are most likely to spend it quickly. That boosts local economies. And that means jobs. Increasing loans to small business. Renewing unemployment insurance. These steps aren’t just the right thing to do for those hardest hit by the recession – they’re the right thing to do for all of us. And I’m calling on Congress once more to take these steps on behalf of America’s workers, and families, and small business owners – the people we were sent here to serve.”
What must be understood is that there is no economic basis for the Republican position is based on a fallacy that unemployment benefits are an incentive for people not to work. The Republicans are assuming that there are jobs out there, but people would rather sit around and wait for their government check, but if there were jobs out there to be had, there would not be so many unemployed people. The Senate GOP is locked into an ideology that all government assistance is bad, so the government should never assist the individual.
The problem is that unemployment benefits are not only allowing people to survive, but they are also keeping many businesses alive. The unemployed are not partying their money away, and they don’t have the ability to save it. Their money goes right back into the economy to pay for housing and utilities, and food. Their spending is helping to keep large and small businesses alive in communities all of the country. If that spending is halted, not only will we have an epidemic of poverty, but also more businesses will be forced to close, more people will be laid off, and the deficit will grow because government revenues from tax dollars will decrease.
The Republicans are cynically putting the economy on a path to destruction, so that they can maximize their electoral results in November. However, if they continue to block unemployment benefits, they have given Democrats an issue that can thwart their whole strategy. The millions of people who are losing their unemployment benefits aren’t going to vote Republican. In fact, the GOP’s unemployment benefits obstruction has now given millions of people a vested interest in ensuring that Republicans don’t take back Congress. A group of voters that may have sat out the November election now have a reason to go vote.
President Obama isn’t worried about the politics of November. He is trying to keep the country from sliding into a double dip recession now. Every time that Senate Republicans block the extension of unemployment benefits Obama needs to be talking about it, because their behavior today is a preview of what America can expect if the GOP takes back Congress. The contrast in positions illustrates the priority of both parties. Obama is trying to help the unemployed, while Republicans are trying to help themselves.