No Money for U.S. Unemployed (but Plenty to Spend Elsewhere)

Fox News reports that money for the U.S. unemployed is running out.

The ongoing crisis has left so many people out of work for so long that most of America’s unemployed are no longer receiving unemployment benefits.

Early last year, 75 percent were receiving checks. The figure is now down to 48 percent — a shift that points to a growing crisis of long-term unemployment. Nearly one-third of America’s 14 million unemployed have had no job for a year or more.

 What’s more, Congress is expected to end provision of emergency unemployment benefits for up to 99 weeks in the hardest-hit states.

When the emergency benefits expire, the proportion of the unemployed receiving aid will fall further.

The ranks of the poor will also rise. The Census Bureau says unemployment benefits kept 3.2 million people from slipping into poverty last year. It defines poverty as annual income below $22,314 for a family of four.

Yet for most of the unemployed, a vote in Congress ironically will not make a lot of difference. They’ve had no job for more than 99 weeks.

They are no longer eligible for benefits.

Their limited options include food stamps or other social programs. Nearly 46 million people received food stamps in August, a record total. That figure will grow as more people lose unemployment benefits. So could the government’s disability rolls. Applications for the disability insurance program have jumped about 50 percent since 2007.

The report goes on to say that there is going to be increasing hardship in America.

The number of unemployed has been roughly stable this year. Yet the number receiving benefits has plunged 30 percent.

Even as originally envisaged, government unemployment benefits weren’t designed to sustain people for long stretches without work, their purpose is to prevent mass discontent and to keep the underclasses under control. It is also true that previous crises ended in recoveries (such as they were) much faster. In the recoveries from the previous three recessions, the longest average duration of unemployment was 21 weeks, in July 1983.

By contrast, in the wake of the Great Recession, the figure reached 41 weeks in September. That’s the longest on records dating to 1948. The figure is now 39 weeks.

Weekly unemployment checks average about $300 nationwide. If the extended benefits aren’t renewed, growth could slow by up to a half-percentage point next year, economists say.

From late 2007, when the recession began, to early 2010, when it was still continuing as it is now, the number of people receiving unemployment benefits rose more than four-fold, to 11.5 million.

But the economy has remained so weak that an analysis of long-term unemployment data suggests that about 2 million people have used up 99 weeks of checks and still can’t find work.

But it may be just the tip of the iceberg. A contributing factor to the smaller share of the unemployed who are receiving benefits: Some of them are college graduates or others seeking jobs for the first time. They aren’t eligible. Only those who have lost a job through no fault of their own qualify. It’s nothing short of a tragedy for those people — college graduates and those looking for their first job.

Thumb-twiddling Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke stated the obvious when he remarked wisely that the long-term unemployed increasingly find it hard to find work as their skills and professional networks erode. In a speech last month, Bernanke called long-term unemployment a “national crisis” that should be a top priority for Congress.

But it seems Congress has other priorities.

While there is no money for America’s unemployed, there is still undiminished desire for spending American taxpayers’ money abroad, for example, on multimillion dollar programs to influence public opinion in foreign countries, such as the State Department’s obscure (but well-funded) program to shape and forge public opinion in targeted countries (a whole lot of them) through the use of hired bloggers, to name just one, although there are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of such programs.

At the same time, the shameful government-run Voice of America (dubbed Vice of America) still gets a lot of funding too and even has the luxury of keeping blundering journos posted all over the world and bureaus open at prime locations in major capitals of the world. I am willing to bet anyone that if VOA funding was stopped, America’s unemployed would suddenly discover that they have plenty of money to last them through to the next recovery, even if it does not happen any time soon.

Oh, America, whither art thou going?

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