Tuesday, January 7, 2014

What You Need to Know About the Unemployment Insurance Debate: Talking Points

The Senate voted 60-37 for cloture on S. 1845, or the Emergency Unemployment Compensation Extension Act, a bill that extends emergency unemployment benefits for three months until March 31, 2014. The bill is sponsored by Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) and Senator Dean Heller (R-NV). The bill may move forward for a definitive vote later this week. To read a Congressional Research Summary of the bill, ◼ click here.

Senators Reed and Heller, the two primary sponsors of the bill, come from the two states with the highest unemployment levels in the nation--Rhode Island and Nevada--according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. To see how states rate in terms of unemployment levels, ◼ click here.

The bill concerns the extension of emergency unemployment benefits, which started in mid-2008. The standard length of time for receiving unemployment benefits has been 26 weeks, plus an additional, permanent 13 week extension since 1970, according to the Cato Institute.

Today, President Obama gave a speech in the East Room of the White House urging Congress to pass S. 1845. In his speech, he expressed disdain for the assertion that extended unemployment benefits keep the long-term unemployed out of the work force longer. As the Heritage Foundation points out however, in the past three years the labor participation rate has decreased from 66.2% at the beginning of 2008 to 63% in November 2013. See the President's speech today:

President Obama Speaks on Extending Emergency Unemployment Insurance

The estimated cost of the S. 1845 is over $6 billion. To see the Congressional Budget Office's score of the bill, click here. As the Cato Institute reports, the federal government will have to borrow all of the money needed to fund this bill, and American taxpayers will have to pay back the borrowed money plus the interest in the future, putting stress on working Americans.

The Cato Institute also points out that states have the ability to extend their own unemployment benefits if they wish to; that way states with low unemployment rates such as North Dakota, South Dakota, and Nebraska would not have to carry the emergency unemployment insurance burden for states with chronically high unemployment that may be the result of the those states' toxic business climates.

The unemployment rate has been receding slightly: it now lies at 7.0% according to the latest determination by the Bureau of Labor Statistics for the month of November, the latest month data is available. A new jobs report will be released this Friday. As The Hill reports today, if the jobs report released this coming Friday harbors good news and S. 1845 has not passed yet, "it could further boost Republican arguments that the program is no longer needed."

With President Obama's State of the Union address scheduled for January 28, 2014, and the midterm elections coming up in November, the Democrats are looking to direct attention away from Obamacare and onto issues of income inequality as a theme for 2014. If and when emergency unemployment benefits are dealt with, many in Washington see a move towards raising the minimum wage brewing.

Senator Rubio Addresses Income Inequality in a New Video

On Sunday, Senator Rubio released a taped speech on income inequality as a preview to his speech on the issue on Wednesday at the Capitol. See the video below: