Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) is trying to pass an extension of unemployment benefits, but is facing resistance from Republicans who are throwing up procedural hurdles and trying to use the extension as leverage to push through a tax cut for the wealthiest families in the country. Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) today questioned the necessity of an extension on the grounds that “we intend to have some immediate impact on the economy through what we’re doing.” And discourse in the House isn’t any better, with Rep. Dean Heller (R-NV) positing that extending unemployment benefits may be creating “hobos”:
Heller said the current economic downturn and policies may bring back the hobos of the Great Depression, people who wandered the country taking odd jobs. He said a study found that people who are out of work longer than two years have only a 50 percent chance of getting back into the workforce. “I believe there should be a federal safety net,” Heller said, but he questioned the wisdom of extending unemployment benefits yet again to a total of 24 months, which Congress is doing. “Is the government now creating hobos?” he asked.
1.1 million workers are due to have their benefits expire next month, and 5 million will see their benefits disappear by June. There are currently six unemployed workers for every job opening, and even without compensating for population increases, 350,000 jobs a month would need to be generated for two full years just to make up the jobs lost in the recession.