In The Two Minute Drill, we explain complex issues in politics in 250 words or less (roughly the amount of words it takes the average adult two minutes to read on a monitor). Politics just isn’t always that complicated. Without the fluff and partisan bias, even the most complex of our political differences can be explained succinctly. This week: Extending emergency unemployment benefits.
On January 2, 2013, the President signed P.L. 112-240, the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012. P.L. 112-240 extended the authorization for the Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC08) program through the week ending on or before January 1, 2014, as well as altered the structure and availability of EUC08 benefits in states. Democratic leaders in Congress and the White House had hoped to extend the benefits before they expired, but those plans were dashed on Tuesday when Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) unveiled their bipartisan budget deal that failed to extend the EUC08 program further. Should Congress extend unemployment benefits yet again?
The Explanation (250 or Bust)
The basic unemployment insurance program, which is run by the states but overseen by the U.S. Department of Labor, typically provides up to 26 weeks of benefits to unemployed workers, replacing about half of their previous wages, on average. During recessions and while unemployment remains high during recoveries, the federal government has historically created temporary, wholly federally funded programs providing further weeks of benefits.
That is what Congress did when it passed the EUC08 program. When EUC08 was initially passed, with the unemployment rate up to 10 percent in 2009, Congress poured in money to keep benefits available for up to 99 weeks. But as the unemployment rate came down, federal extended benefits have been reduced to a maximum of 47 weeks.
The jobless rate is 7 percent now, and many conservatives argue that the extra spending is discouraging people from entering the workforce. But the facts do not bear that sentiment out.
In fact, among the long-term unemployed, those eligible for federal benefits spent significantly more time looking for jobs than those who didn’t qualify. Maintaining these benefits, and extending the authorization for EUC08 through 2014, is the right thing to do for the U.S. economy and for the families who rely on unemployment insurance to pay their bills.
The Congressional Budget Office estimates that continuing benefits for another full year would cost about $26 billion – but it would also boost growth by 0.2 percent and add about 200,000 jobs. America cannot afford ending emergency unemployment compensation now.
Word Count: 250.
The Five Most Interesting Things We Read This Week
Here are the five most interesting articles (both political and non-political) we’ve read this week:
- Rat Retraction Reaction. A 2012 study purportedly found that GMO corn fed to rats caused them to develop large tumors and die prematurely. Of Politics and Men chimed in on the GMO debate, and this study in particular, in a recent column, Food Politics: GMOs and the Liberal War on Science. And on Thanksgiving Day, the journal of Food and Chemical Toxicology took the illuminating step of retracting the severely flawed paper. In a statement, the publishers of the journal wrote: “Ultimately, the results presented (while not incorrect) are inconclusive, and therefore do not reach the threshold of publication for Food and Chemical Toxicology.”
- An Unapproved CIA Mission Gone Wrong. “In an extraordinary breach of the most basic CIA rules, a team of analysts – with no authority to run spy operations – paid Levinson to gather intelligence from some of the world’s darkest corners. He vanished while investigating the Iranian government for the U.S.” From the AP.
- More Charts. From The Wire: the best charts of 2013.
- America’s Most Desperate Town. “Instead of shaking hands, people here are always lifting hats, sleeves, pant legs and shirttails to show you wounds or scars, then pointing in the direction of where the bad thing just happened.” Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi: Dispatches from Camden, New Jersey.
- Snoozers are Losers. “You throw out your arm and hit the snooze button, silencing the noise for at least a few moments. Just another couple of minutes, you think. Then maybe a few minutes more. It may seem like you’re giving yourself a few extra minutes to collect your thoughts. But what you’re actually doing is making the wake-up process more difficult and drawn out.” The New Yorker’s Maria Konnikova on why you are sleeping wrong.
And in case you missed it, check out The Weekly Column. This past week addressed the train wreck that is the 113th Congress. Read the Column – The (Un)Productivity of the 113th Congress.