Waiting for the Unemployment Extension? Don’t Bother Checking Your Mailbox

My mother, who recently turned 80 and enjoys Hannity, Limbaugh and the rest of the conservative pundits on daytime radio, believes that the federal unemployment extension has passed in Congress and that the checks will be in the mail shortly.

Um, Mom?  I’m not holding my breath.

I hear it’s getting nasty, and not just on Capitol Hill either.  Inflammatory name-calling abounds.  Apparently, either you’re a “conservatard” or a “libtard.”  Wowzers, this unemployment thing sure has become a hot-button issue.

This should come as no surprise.  More than a million unemployed Americans lost their checks when the enabling legislation for federal benefit extensions expired three days after Christmas.  As most of them are still out of work, that’s January, February and March without any income.

This is part of the problem with the Senate bill to extend benefits, according to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio).  If both houses of Congress were to pass the bill, unemployment checks would need to be provided retroactively to those who were cut off in December.  This would leave state governments with an administrative nightmare, according to Boehner, who believes that the states’ often antiquated data processing systems are incapable of making retroactive payments without creating openings for massive fraud.  Interestingly, some of the states with the highest rates of unemployment, including New York and Boehner’s home state of Ohio, roundly deny this line of reasoning.  Show us the money, they say, and we’ll take care of getting it distributed.  Then again, there are those states (including some of the poorest ones, such as Mississippi) that are happy to go along with Boehner’s ruse because they simply do not want to have to deal with passing out the money.

But Boehner, who has characterized the Senate bill as unworkable, has voiced a second objection: It fails to include any provisions to create jobs in the private sector.  In other words, why bother providing handouts when there are no jobs to be had and the recipients of government largesse are just going to run through their checks and need more?  (raising my hand)  Ooo, ooo, teacher, I know!  How about because we need to feed our families and keep a roof over their heads?

It would be easy to characterize Boehner’s smokescreen as a means of mollifying the Tea Party conservatives in his caucus and hence keeping his speakership.  But it goes beyond that.  Sure, Republicans gripe about how we’ve become “a nation of takers” and how government “handouts” merely perpetuate the cycle of dependence and a mindset of entitlement. However, the bottom line seems to be that representatives of both parties continue to demonstrate a lack of sufficient intestinal fortitude to engage in the type of fracas over the issue that the Senate has dragged itself through in the past three months.  The facts that children are going to be without food and that families will be rendered homeless have been reduced to meaningless details, apparently.

Now that five Republican senators have agreed to vote in favor of the unemployment extension bill (deciding, as one editorial put it, that “the time for callousness has run out”), it appears poised to pass in that august body on Monday morning.  Of course, anything is possible.  If even one of those five craps out at the last minute, the measure won’t have enough votes to survive a filibuster.

Not that it really matters.  The Senate gets a feather in its cap, sure.  Senate Democrats can rejoice in a hard-fought win and Republicans can crow about how, against their better judgment, they allowed their values to be compromised in order to bail out those of their fellow Americans who are in the direst of straits.  Senators can play the role of the good guys and point their collective fingers at the bad boys and girls of the House of Representatives, who (at least if Boehner has his way) are likely to prevent the unemployment extension bill from ever coming to a vote.

Meanwhile, those of us who have been out of work for more than six months get nothing.



Delaney, Arthur, “House GOP Says It’s Too Late to Pass an Unemployment Extension,” huffingtonpost.com (March 27, 2014).

Everett, Burgess, “Senate Advances Jobless Aid,” politico.com (March 27, 2014).

Firestone, David, “Despite a Senate Deal, the Jobless Still Wait for Aid,”  The New York Times (Taking Note, March 14, 2014).

Fram, Alan, “Boehner Questions Senate Unemployment Deal,” Boston Globe (Associated Press, March 14, 2014).


20 thoughts on “Waiting for the Unemployment Extension? Don’t Bother Checking Your Mailbox

    • Until now, federal extension of emergency unemployment benefits was passed by Congress and signed into law as a matter of course. Allowing the enabling legislation to expire in December was unconscionable. I want so badly to believe that our elected representatives have our best interests at heart, but it is so difficult to maintain this view when all the evidence is to the contrary. Thanks so much for reading and commenting, Charles.

      • It’s hard to think on that path; it’s simply give me what I want and I’ll give the people what they need. There’s simply no concern about the people; more concern about sticking it to the President. This is all about repelling the ACA and we’ll approve the extension.

  1. I think what’s worse than the Republicans deliberately stalling, and dragging their feet these past several months, is that they’ve made us feel that we’re actually wrong to expect help from the government. There are others (employed) that think the same way also. But I would like to remind the politicians and some of the public, that we unemployed, have worked many years paying into the system , for others who were in need of help. This money came out of our paychecks in the form of taxes. These taxes were also used to bail out the Banking and Airline industries, several years back. I’m sure I don’t need to remind everyone, that after the bailouts, the CEO’s of these companies were actually given huge Bonuses. Only in America can a corporation destroy an economy, get bailed out, and give themselves huge bonuses. All thanks to you and me the tax payers. (the 99%). There wasn’t much debate in the congress and senate to decide to use tax payers money to bail out these greedy corporations. However, the unemployed have had to wait patiently, hoping and praying that the senate will pass the unemployment extension bill to help them. Just the other day the congress approved a billion dollar foreign aid bill for the Ukraine. Again, the bill seemed to pass quickly through the congress. There was no waiting or debate about approving it. The unemployed have been used by both political parties, as “bargaining chips”, and “political leverage”. They’ve been playing “party politics” while these families have faced evictions, home foreclosures, bankruptcy, and homelessness. These families have been hurting these past three months, while the senate takes break after break, vacation after vacation, all in the hope that the unemployed would just go away. However, I wish to remind them, that we are angry and will make sure we’re heard on election day at the polls. There is more than two million of voters who have been affected by their lack of compassion and human decency. And we will be heard loud and clear at the polls.

    • I wonder to what extent this state of affairs is endemic to capitalism. Money goes to money (i.e., to big business) while no money goes to no-money (the poor and the unemployed). So if you have money, you get more, and if you have none, you get nothing. I do feel that President Obama is on the right track with the Affordable Care Act. Now we need to take this further by pursuing additional avenues of income redistribution.

  2. I so feel for you. I have been through two layoffs in the past decade, and when I hear people (including some of those rather close to me) go off about how “their” tax dollars are bailing everyone else out, it makes me cringe. I remember well the daily scouring of news stories for updates on UI extensions up for vote. I am hoping for the very best for you and all the others in this unbearable state of uncertainty. Those were some of most difficult times of my adult life. Prayers to you all.

    • Thanks so much for your kind remarks, Sunflower. I was terminated in 2009 (at which point my position was eliminated – imagine that!) and then laid off (position eliminated again) in September of last year. Even if an employer does hire me eventually, can I expect to go through this torture every three or four years? I’m not getting any younger, my age making me less attractive to employers. The only good thing that I can see coming from the combination of the economic downturn and governmental miserliness is that families will have to learn to stick together for survival. it’s a shame that it should have to come to this for us to learn this important lesson. Thanks for being such a faithful reader, Sunflower.

      • Perhaps you should direct your anger at the Democrats who want to keep allowing Illegal workers to keep crossing the border and not send them back home. They are here taking job’s from “real” Americans. They are not here paying taxes nor contributing to the Countrys welfare they are just taking from the Tax Payers.

        Yet we will sit here and blame those damn Republicans for not Bankrupting the country and giving us money from other Middle class tax payers. .

        The blame needs to be placed in more than one place. This is like leaving the barn door open and after it is too late you blame the guy who wants to fix the barn door that is broken.

        The problem starts with millions of NON Americans here taking work from us and not paying Taxes. for that you can Place the Blame squarelky on the Democrats shoulders who want amnesty for illegals and youi will still be out of work blaming Republicans for not giving you a handout.

        I am out of work and have no job so don’t tell me I dont know how it feels. I do know Mexicans are doing my job and they are working under the table

    • We can be sure that the Democrats will be using the unemployment debacle as a bludgeon against the Republicans in the next election. I shan’t be shedding any tears in my beer, sir. Just imagine what is likely to transpire if Republicans take over the White House and the Senate. A lot of us, myself included, are going to be up a creek without a paddle. Thanks for joining the discussion, Stephen.

    • Oh, I think a lot of us feel that way, Sunflower. But we have to work with what we’ve got. Write your U.S. Congressperson and tell them how you feel about the unemployment extension NOW! Remember, she or he is your voice in Washington, D.C. This is how our democratic system of government works.

  3. I appreciate your perspective. Whatever party one belongs to, it is a race to the bottom as the good paying jobs disappear in this country.

    • The problem with the race to the bottom is similar to the problem faced by the cat galloping up a tree. What will we do when we get there? Thanks so much for reading and commenting.

  4. @Phil Asophical: If Mexicans are doing your job and working under the table, why don’t you follow suit? I know I would. Similarly, if my job (imagining for a moment that I had one) were to move to Mexico (likely due to the high cost of doing business in California), I would be taking Spanish lessons and asking my employer how much it would pay me in pesos down there.

    By the way, I don’t blame the Republicans for not bankrupting the country… because they ARE bankrupting the country with their trillion dollar military expenditures. Unemployment extension NOW!

  5. Illegal Mexicans have actually stopped coming across the border for the last 4 years or so. Net immigration (illegal and legal) from Mexico is nearly 0. Stop blaming the illegal immigration. Look at the real distribution of wealth in this country. What used to be middle class is little better than the poor and the wealth is concentrated at the very top. And those people are not investing in this country anymore. Hence no new job creation….. The only drop in the unemployment rate over the last 5 years has been due to a marked drop in the labor force participation rate. To be blunt, more people are leaving the workforce – to go on disability rolls which have tripled, or public assistance. Where else can you go when there are not enough jobs for everyone and tons of unemployed or underemployed? On any given day in this country there are 3 million open jobs, but 12 million officially unemployed people, 10 million officially underemployed people. hello? Do you see the problem here? Its not lazy people, or unskilled people….. yet, we are sending billions overseas, billions to the war in the middle east, giving tax breaks to all the multinational corporations….. and yet the economic failures are blamed on who? the American worker? The illegal Mexicans?

    • It is so convenient to identify a scapegoat for whatever our current troubles may be, but as rational, compassionate people, we must avoid this evil temptation at all costs. Xenophobia and cultural discrimination is never the right answer. Instead, we ought to face the real issues: An economy marked by jobs that cannot be filled due to a lack of trained candidates while millions of inadequately trained Americans are out of work. This represents a failure of our education system, which has not kept up with our changing economy. Using immigration as a smokescreen is a clever ruse by those who wish to avoid addressing the real issues. Thanks so much for reading and commenting, Sister.

      • I’m not as convinced as you are that there is a shortage of skilled American workers. Even if a shortage exists, it may be as much a market problem as an educational infrastructure problem in that allowing wages in the IT sector to rise will draw people into IT careers. Moreover, companies used to provide on-the-job training. That has gone out of fashion, but with real unemployment around 20%, society and government should be pushing companies to re-adopt it rather than caving to their demands for more visa guest workers.

        This video of a legal seminar instructing firms how to position themselves so that they don’t have to hire evdn qualified American workers supports my contention that there is more than a simple skills shortage going on here. At one point, one of the panelists says “our goal is not to find any qualified US workers.”

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