Understandably, most of the chatter around the tax deal revolves around taxes. By contrast, the extension to unemployment benefits has mostly gone under the radar, with some enthusiasm from liberals and progressives. Well, as The Wall Street Journal suggests, liberals (myself included) might have made a mistake by not subjecting the extension to more scrutiny, since -- for all of its good -- it doesn't actually provide aid to anyone who's been out of work for more than 99 weeks:
The number of people who have received their final payments from extended-benefits programs this year through the end of October — the most recent month for which data are available — is over one million, and that number has been steadily increasing. Separately, the Labor Department reported that nearly 10% of the unemployed in the third quarter of 2010 — more than one million people — had been out of a job and looking for work for about two years or more. Meanwhile, initial claims for unemployment have been trending lower recently, but the biggest surge came in early 2009. The peak of 643,000 claims in a single week came in March of last year, 89 weeks ago. Anyone still unemployed since that peak is likely to run out of benefits soon, if they haven’t already.
Keep in mind, too, that more than a third of unemployed workers have been jobless for more than a year. If the job market remains weak, there is a good chance that even more people will join the ranks of the 99ers. The lower estate tax is objectionable, but with hindsight, it might have been better for liberal Democrats to press for more benefits for the 99ers. Given their obsession, I'm actually pretty certain that Republicans would have traded away more benefits for the chance to give tax cuts to wealthy people.
-- Jamelle Bouie
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