Real Time Economics posted one of the most read and commented blog entries from Friday's Wall Street Journal. "Unemployment Extension Won't Help 99ers" lays out the problem with the just-signed tax cut deal in a nutshell:
"The extension for unemployment benefits that is part of the compromise tax deal is good news for many of the unemployed, but it won't provide aid to anyone who's been out of a job over 99 weeks"
The article caught the attention of The American Prospect:
Well, as The Wall Street Journal suggests, liberals (myself included) might have made a mistake by not subjecting the extension to more scrutiny, since - for all of its good - it doesn't actually provide aid to anyone who's been out of work for more than 99 weeks
Senators and House members have gotten it wrong, too, as Arthur Delaney at the Huffington Post reports:
(Sen. Orrin) Hatch joins Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) and Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), who in the past few weeks made the same mistake. HuffPost first reported that members of Congress don't understand unemployment benefits back in November.
Some in Congress get it. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, for instance:
WASHINGTON - Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) said on the House floor Thursday that any deal to preserve tax cuts for the rich ought to include help for people who have exhausted 99 weeks of benefits and still haven't found work.
Other members of the Congressional Black Caucus also expressed the need to extend benefits to the 99ers:
Rep. Bobby Scott, speaking for the Congressional Black Caucus at Friday's press conference, stated, "We support the 13-month extension of unemployment insurance benefits, but we all agree that we also ought to extend benefits for the so-called 99ers - those who are exhausting the benefits they have."
We can't leave a story like this in the Friday trash dump. It's far too important to the 1.5 million 99ers, to say nothing of the 4 million expected to join our ranks in the coming year.
The 111th Congress is coming to a close. The odds that the Senate would take up a bill like Senator Stabenow's S. 3706 are vanishingly small. Our challenge is to engage the incoming Congress on as many levels as we can: in the media, through e-mails and faxes, and most important, in person.
We have an opportunity to build on the WSJ story - we have an opportunity to inform public opinion and the Congress. It's going to be an uphill battle all the way, but that's what we've been faced with since day one.