Time to help the long-term unemployed

<p>Illustration courtesy of <a title=cometstarmoon.

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Illustration courtesy of cometstarmoon.

March 9 is National Panic Day, followed by Employee Appreciation Day on March 10.

Given the rate of unemployment and shortage of jobs that pay a living wage, and that offer benefits, thought should be given to consolidating the two.

With people giving up on finding employment, on top of the fact that long-term unemployment benefits have ended for some, it is a dilemma that understandably evokes a sense of panic.

As of Dec. 28, 2013, unemployment benefits for approximately 1.3 million Americans ended when the federal government’s unemployment insurance program ended, leaving some without any source of income. Some lawmakers oppose an extension of long-term unemployment benefits. They believe that prolonging unemployment benefits offers an incentive for people to remain unemployed, and encourages them to forgo taking jobs that are available.

So far, the Senate has failed to advance an extension of unemployment benefits that would help the long-term unemployed until a more permanent solution is found. For individuals that find themselves caught in the middle of the political mess, it is indeed a time of panic. Not to mention those that are lucky enough to have jobs, but who have seen the cost of living rise, their incomes steadily decline, and their contribution to health care and pension plans increase.

Lawmakers are trying to find a solution to the problem, but as is often the case the stumbling block is figuring out how to pay for the extension, and of course, there’s the political squabbling. Senate majority leader Harry Reid of Nevada in a moment of frustration and speaking about Republicans who oppose the bill said, “We’ve given them everything that they wanted. Paid for.”

It is hard to fathom that there are now more than 1.7 million Americans that are not receiving unemployment benefits.

As attention turns toward the mid-term elections, there is a possibility that the issue of long-term unemployment is one that the Democrats will use against Republicans. In the meantime, celebrating Employee Appreciation Day seems a tad awkward, especially when so many Americans are enduring tremendous hardship, employee pensions are under threat, and those with jobs could, any day, join the ranks of the unemployed.

Long-term unemployment benefits have become a political football for lawmakers. So, here’s an idea, how about not holding Employee Appreciation Day and instead emailing, calling and using all forms of social media to panic lawmakers into doing something to help the millions of Americans affected by the politicization of this serious issue.