Renewal of benefits good for recovery

By Frank Knapp Jr., Triangle Business Journal

Ross Perot coined the phrase “giant sucking sound” in the presidential debates of 1998.

He was talking about the jobs he predicted (correctly) that would leave the United States in search of cheaper labor if we passed NAFTA.

Today’s giant sucking sound is the $25 billion not going into our economy if Congress doesn’t pass an extension of the federal supplemental unemployment insurance for those facing long-term joblessness due to the recession.

The giant sucking sound started Dec. 28 as 1.3 million Americans lost an average of $277 a week in these benefits while they look for work. Another 600,000 are expected to lose benefits before June.

Many in Congress don’t seem able to empathize with the unemployed struggling to survive on $277 a week.

They think if these people had their benefits eliminated that they would take a lesser-paying job. But even if these mostly college-educated folks previously making $50,000 or more did find these mythical 1.3 million minimum-wage jobs available today, what jobs would remain for those less-skilled looking for work?

Critics want the renewal to be revenue neutral. No problem. Just eliminate the offshore tax havens for multinational corporations that are costing us well over $25 billion a year and not benefiting taxpayers one bit.

Maybe those who oppose the extension should think of the unemployed as conduits to funneling money into our local economies, including small businesses.

That’s where the $277 is going. It’s paying the rent or mortgage. It’s paying for transportation, food, clothes and utilities.

The giant sucking sound we hear is the wind going out of our recovery.

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