Posted by | December 20, 2010 14:54 | Filed under: Top Stories

By Yashwanth Manjunath

The 99ers are people who have exhausted the full 99 weeks of unemployment benefits without being able to find work. These are hard-working Americans who had jobs prior to the financial meltdown caused by the rapacious greed of the wealthiest and most powerful in the country. Right now there are  roughly five unemployed workers for every available job. That means that for 80% of the unemployed there simply are no jobs available no matter how hard they try. The Obama-McConnell tax cut raw deal does nothing for 99ers who have lost their last lifeline, through no fault of their own.

To remedy this unacceptable situation, House Democratic Reps. Barbara Lee (pictured) (Calif.) and Bobby Scott (Va.) introduced legislation Friday that would provide additional assistance to “99ers”, to which I say, about damn time. The legislation would add 14 weeks of benefits to the first “tier” of Emergency Unemployment Compensation, one of two programs that together give the unemployed up to 73 weeks of federally-funded benefits for workers who exhaust 26 weeks of state benefits. The full 73 weeks are available in states with unemployment above 8.5 percent.

With the Republicans about to take over the House in January, the expectation among the political punditry is that this bill will stall indefinitely. The excuse that Republicans give in opposition to helping the 99ers is that they are against more deficit spending, which is really just their excuse to be cold and heartless. Their desire for fiscal restraint certainly did not stop them from joining hands with President Obama to add hundreds of billions of dollars in tax cuts for the wealthy to the deficit. But on this issue I think the Republicans are playing with fire and will break eventually.

According to Republican Fed Chairmen Ben Bernanke, it will take 4-5 years for the country to reach a normal level of unemployment again, without factoring the possibility of a double-dip. That is a long time to leave millions of suffering voters high and dry. Republicans may not have compassion, but they do have a strong sense of self-preservation. At some point voter anger will reach a tipping point where the Republicans will have to buckle. But maybe I am just being hopeful?

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