Your MatchGirl, as you know, is lucky enough to have found (after a ridiculously long time) a job. And therefore not to have to worry about living unemployment check to unemployment check and being at the constant mercies of the games being played by politicians. That doesn't mean that I'm not paying attention. And it doesn't mean that I'll stop passing on my musings about it.
In Sunday's New York Times Opinion blog, Paul Krugman writes about Congress' refusal to extend unemployment benefits and puts forth his argument for extending benefits.
Today, American workers face the worst job market since the Great Depression, with five job seekers for every job opening, with the average spell of unemployment now at 35 weeks. Yet the Senate went home for the holiday weekend without extending benefits. How was that possible?
The answer is that we’re facing a coalition of the heartless, the clueless and the confused. Nothing can be done about the first group, and probably not much about the second. But maybe it’s possible to clear up some of the confusion.
By the heartless, I mean Republicans who have made the cynical calculation that blocking anything President Obama tries to do — including, or perhaps especially, anything that might alleviate the nation’s economic pain — improves their chances in the midterm elections. Don’t pretend to be shocked: you know they’re out there, and make up a large share of the G.O.P. caucus.
By the clueless I mean people like Sharron Angle, the Republican candidate for senator from Nevada, who has repeatedly insisted that the unemployed are deliberately choosing to stay jobless, so that they can keep collecting benefits. A sample remark: “You can make more money on unemployment than you can going down and getting one of those jobs that is an honest job but it doesn’t pay as much. We’ve put in so much entitlement into our government that we really have spoiled our citizenry.”
Your MatchGirl has made no secret of her left-leaning, raised-by-Hippies politics. But this is not even a politically motivated post. This is a post about real people in a dire time. This is a post about people who cannot find a job because there are not any.
Was I able to be a bit more choosy about the jobs I applied for because I was collecting unemployment benefits? Of course. I'll admit it. But I sent out hundreds of resumes, for jobs for which I was supremely qualified, for jobs that I was referred to or recommended to by friends, to jobs which I was over-qualified and would take a massive pay cut - because I wanted to get a job. And, the fact of the matter, dear Congress, is that I got three job interviews that were for anything that might be real. I met with numerous staffing agencies who told me they'd get back to me. Impressed as they may (or may not) have been with my resume, the fact is that there were just no jobs.
Mr. Krugman goes on to write:
Helping the unemployed, by putting money in the pockets of people who badly need it, helps support consumer spending. That’s why the Congressional Budget Office rates aid to the unemployed as a highly cost-effective form of economic stimulus. And unlike, say, large infrastructure projects, aid to the unemployed creates jobs quickly — while allowing that aid to lapse, which is what is happening right now, is a recipe for even weaker job growth, not in the distant future but over the next few months.
People who don't have any money in their pockets, no matter where that money may be coming from, can't spend money. They watch their pennies like a hawk (though, they probably should anyway - don't even get me started on the credit crisis, dear ones - as you well know, your MatchGirl is not a fan of people spending beyond their means!). But a couple extra bucks in someone's pocket can go a long way to helping stimulate the economy.
I understand, as does Mr, Krugman, that this extra spending will increase the deficit, slightly, in the short term. But we must ask Congress to look ahead - to stop being selfish - and to extend benefits for those amongst us who are still unemployed. I'm afraid, gentle ones, that, in this year of midterm elections, that the politicians are simply looking out for their themselves, instead of the people who put them into their jobs in the first place.