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AS I SEE IT

Posted 1/15/14 (Wed)

By Neal A. Shipman
Farmer Editor

While Congress wrestles with the issue of whether or not to extend emergency unemployment benefits for an additional three months for the 1.3 million unemployed workers who have been laid off so long that they have exhausted their unemployment insurance, a more fundamental question needs to asked and answered. And that question is, why isn’t more being done at the federal level to create an economic climate that creates private jobs.
The cost to the taxpayers to extend this unemployment benefit for three months is a staggering $6.5 billion. Not chicken feed when the government truly doesn’t have the money to extend these benefits.
But the number of 1.3 million unemployed is just the tip of the iceberg of Americans without work. According to the U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in December of 2013, there were 10.4 million Americans classified as unemployed. And that number doesn’t take into consideration the millions more who have simply taken themselves out of the labor pool because of the lack of available jobs.
Simply put, over the past several years, a poor U.S. economy has forced millions of Americans out of the work force. In 2007, 66 percent of Americans had a job or were actively seeking work. In contrast, today, that number is at 62.8 percent, which is the lowest level since 1977. And some estimate that there are 91 million Americans not in the labor force.
For that reason, one can’t help but feel sorry for the millions of people in the United States who are not working and have become reliant, if not dependent, on receiving unemployment checks to meet their basic living expenses.
Unless fundamental changes are made at the federal level of government that encourage and foster the growth of private business, which will lead to the creation of more jobs, the long-term outlook for those unemployed isn’t all that promising.
Which is why President Obama, along with members of Congress, need to spend more of their time and energy embracing programs, such as the Keystone XL Pipeline, that will create millions of jobs instead of creating roadblocks to building the economy.
At the end of the day, no doubt Congress will pass the unemployment extension. Politically, neither party can turn their backs on their fellow Americans.
Long-term unemployment, along with long-term unemployment benefits, does nothing but strangle the economy and make millions of Americans more and more dependent upon federal assistance.
What America needs is more jobs. Not more unemployment.