MSNBC host Rachel Maddow had Senator Jeff Merkley on her show last night to talk about extending unemployment insurance to the 1.3 million long-term unemployed people whose benefits have run out. His appearance came hot on the heels of a surprise vote in the Senate that could pave the way for a three-month extension of jobless benefits. (Democrats were joined by a small handful of Republicans to open debate on the bill.)
What we see in society, across America, is huge income inequality… 95% of the new income going to just the 1% at the top, huge differences in wealth. We are losing living wage jobs.
Out of the Great Recession, 60% of the jobs we lost were living wage, and only 40% of the jobs we’re getting back are living wage. So families are going from middle class with benefits to near minimum wage, part-time jobs with no benefits that you just can’t have a good foundation for a family, which means you have to have help creating new jobs that are living wage, and in the meantime you need these bridges of unemployment insurance and food stamps. — Senator Jeff Merkley
A little background: Jobless benefits have expired for 1.3 million unemployed Americans–including about 22,000 Oregonians. Along with other critical programs like food assistance, these payments provide a vital bridge to these families so they can manage to keep a roof over their heads and food on their tables until they can find a job.
Congress has the ability to extend these jobless payments in times of extended unemployment–but Republicans have blocked these efforts for partisan political reasons.
It’s important to note that while the economic recovery is still bypassing millions of Americans–and tens of thousands of Oregonians–large corporations are enjoying record profits, specifically because they’ve cut wages, turned full time jobs into part time jobs with no benefits, and have shipped jobs overseas.
The economic crisis facing millions of unemployed Americans is no accident. Congress must act now to extend a lifeline to these struggling families.