Help for thousands on the line in unemployment debate | Arkansas Blog

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Help for thousands on the line in unemployment debate

Posted By on Sun, Dec 29, 2013 at 8:56 AM

John Lyon at Stephens Media reports on the high stakes in the congressional debate over whether to renew the long-term unemployment benefits program.

If the program is not extended, some 18,000 Arkansans could lose the benefits (which kick in after state benefits are exhausted) over the next six months.

In that the fat cats at the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce say it's time to stop coddling the unemployed, it's probably a safe bet to guess where the Arkansas House Republicans will line up. Some Senate Republicans even favor a temporary extension, but spending federal dollars on poor people isn't on the agenda of Tom Cotton and like-minded zealots in the House. Not even when the stimulative effect of giving people money to spend on the necessities of life is well documented.

I'd be more inclined to go along with the chamber if its fellow travelers in local chambers, notably in Little Rock, didn't get fat government employment subsidies every year from taxes paid on hamburgers by the working stiffs who the Chamber's Randy Zook thinks have been coddled long enough. From Lyons' article:

Some Republicans in Congress have questioned the need for an extension, noting have that national unemployment is declining and the economy is improving. Some say that without the long-term benefits, people who may have been holding out for an ideal job will take a lower-paying job, and as a result unemployment will decline further.

Alan Hughes, president of Arkansas AFL-CIO, said Congress should pass more than a three-month extension, saying the outlook for the unemployed is not going to turn around in three months. He said people are not choosing to live on unemployment.

“They’re not deadbeats. They’re people out there struggling, trying to make ends meet and trying to find a job,” he said.

It would be nice, too, if a worker could expect a living wage. But the chamber nabobs are lined up to keep the Arkansas minimum wage at $6.75 an hour, lowest in the country. You may be sure that the taxpayer-subsidized execs at the LR C of C aren't taking home a puny $270 a week for their toil in behalf of the corporate political agenda — holding down wages, gutting workers comp, tearing apart conventional public schools, increasing government subsidies to private business, fighting universal health care, beating up unions and so son.

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