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The real problem with unemployment benefits

Last weekend, 1.3 million Americans (nearly 25,000 Washingtonians) lost their extended unemployment benefits. In 2008, under President Bush, a program was created to extend benefits by 47 weeks for individuals who were unemployed due to the Recession.

Right before the New Year, Congress didn’t continue the program. Republicans wanted — get this! — to find funding for it before blindingly throwing us deeper into debt. President Obama wasn’t all that interested in fighting for the program during the budget deal between Rep. Paul Ryan and Senator Patty Murray. So, the program is now unfunded.

Rep. Suzan DelBene (WA-1) joined my show to talk about the issue.

What strikes me as odd about the national conversation on funding unemployment benefits is that we don’t actually talk about fixing the problem that results in folks needing to be on unemployment benefits. The problem is jobs. We’re losing jobs permanently (whether the jobs are going overseas or being replaced by technology). The jobs market is changing rapidly and too many of us aren’t willing to adapt. We have folks demanding — DEMANDING!! — a $15 minimum wage for a job that can easily be replaced by a computer (and many are — just go to a self-check out stand at a grocery store). We have machinists holding on to this notion that they’re forever entitled to a pension (something most workers never experienced because it’s a perk of the past — we now have 401(k)s if we’re lucky).

I read a fantastic piece in Forbes that really highlights the jobs problem that we’re so completely ignoring. I talked to her on the show as well.

So how about this: let’s chat about why people are on unemployment and come up with a plan to address it (and it won’t be easy), rather than political sniping back and forth about funding a program that, if we’re successful in addressing the real problem, we won’t have to worry about funding again — we won’t really need it.

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