The Senate has so far declined to extend unemployment insurance benefits beyond 99 weeks. That means that 1.4 million workers who have been unemployed for 100 weeks or longer receive no unemployment benefits. These people, dubbed the 99ers, are a challenge to legislators and a symbol of how difficult this recession has become. What do these Americans mean for the battle for recovery and for Congress's struggle to help aid the unemployed?
- The Scope of the 99ers Problem The Washington Post's Michael Fletcher writes, "Their numbers have grown sixfold in the past three years. ... The 99ers are glaring examples of the nation's most serious bout of long-term joblessness since the Great Depression. Nearly 46 percent of the country's 14.6 million unemployed people have been out of work for more than six months, and forecasters project that the situation will not improve anytime soon. Currently, the Labor Department says there are nearly five unemployed people for every job opening."
- The Economy Needs More Unemployment Insurance The Washington Post's Ezra Klein argues, "Right now, there are about five workers for every one job. Unemployment insurance is not the problem here. ... Unemployment is likely to remain above 9 percent for the rest of this year, and for much of next. That means the ranks of the long-term unemployed will swell even further. ... And we're just going to leave them without incomes and without job opportunities and without money to spend in their wrecked local economies -- thus making it harder for those economies to generate new jobs? That's the economic theory this country is going to embrace amid terrible joblessness?"
- The Alarming Growth of 99ers The Columbia Journalism Review's Holly Yeager writes, "In usual times, those who have been unemployed that long make up a small fraction of the unemployment picture. But these aren't usual times, and the 99ers have become a big part of the story," making up 3 percent of the unemployed in June 2007 but 9.2 percent in June 2010.
- Republicans Exacerbate Crisis Measures to extend unemployment insurance have met with staunch resistance from Senate Republicans. Liberal blogger John Cole fumes, "You would think this kind of story would motivate the Democrats, but considering the Republicans have every incentive to make sure more people are miserable, I doubt motivation will help much. That's the perverse reality. The more Americans who hurt, the more political and philosophical incentive the GOP has to block any attempts to help the economy."
- Rand Paul's Solution The Washington Independent's Annie Lowrey paraphrases, "Take a pay cut and stop asking for government aid." Paul said, "As bad as it sounds, ultimately we do have to sometimes accept a wage that's less than we had at our previous job in order to get back to work and allow the economy to get started again. ... I think the issue is bigger than unemployment benefits. ... It's all about priorities, what is the priority. And sometimes tough decisions will have to be made."