LaborTalk for May 30, 2012

Millions of Jobless Are Such Easy Targets
For Congress and States to Slash Benefits
Is There a Realistic Solution to the Jobless Problem?

By Harry Kelber

More than five million people who have been out of work for a half year or more have suffered a series of new cuts in their benefits. If they've exhausted 99 weeks of federal and state financial aid, they are no longer eligible for more benefits. They would have to wait until the economy improved and jobs were plentiful, Republicans assert. They can't expect to get government help indefinitely.

At the same time, Congress has made it more difficult for states to qualify for maximum aid. Since then, the jobless in 23 states have lost up to five months of benefits.

Next month, an additional 70,000 people will lose benefits earlier than they expected. That brings the number of people cut off prematurely this year close to half a million, according to the National Employment Law Project.

The federal extension of unemployment benefits has been a contentious issue in Washington for several years. Republicans insist that it prolongs joblessness and has not had a favorable effect on job growth.

The Democrats argue that those out of work have few alternatives and that the checks are one of the most effective forms of stimulus, since most of it is spent immediately.

What Should We Do about the Millions of Unemployed?

There are about 20 million people who are looking for full-time jobs and who cannot make a decent living on part-time work. Even the most optimistic experts don't see enough jobs for more than half of them. What happens to the rest?

Consider several factors operating against job growth: Employers are loath to hire new workers, if they can get their current employees to work harder for less. New technologies that increase production often mean layoffs and fewer workers. Outsourcing by U.S. companies causes the loss of tens of thousands of good-paying jobs. And there is an influx of maybe one quarter of a million young people per month who are looking to enter the labor market. Competition for the available jobs becomes fierce.

What can we do for the unemployed? We can do nothing; simply let them fend for themselves and risk whatever actions the unemployed may take in their own defense.

Or we may think of the unthinkable: a new society that worries about the underprivileged. Or can anyone suggest alternatives?

And what do you suggest?

LaborTalk will be posted here on June 6, 2012 and on our two web sites: and on

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