Obama seeks to extend unemployment benefits again

President Obama used his weekly address to urge Congress to extend unemployment benefits, pointing out that 1.3 million of the long term unemployed will lose their benefits 3 days after Christmas.

The Hill:

"If Members of Congress don't act before they leave on their vacations, 1.3 million Americans will lose this lifeline," he said in the White House weekly address. "They're our friends and neighbors; they sit next to us in church and volunteer in our communities; their kids play with our kids. And they include 20,000 veterans who've served this country with honor," he continued.

The president's statement comes as the White House said Friday it wouldn't insist on including jobless benefits in the emerging budget deal. 

"The vehicle that they use to do that is less important than the fact that they do it," White House spokesman Jay Carney said.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) also said Thursday it wouldn't necessarily have to be inserted into the deal that is expected to be finalized next week.

"Hopefully, it could be part of the budget, but it doesn't have to be part of the budget," Pelosi said. "It could be on its own vehicle, as it goes forward, but it's something we must consider."

"If Congress refuses to act, it won't just hurt families already struggling - it will actually harm our economy," Obama said. "Unemployment insurance is one of the most effective ways there is to boost our economy." 

The president spoke about the inequality gap Wednesday in a major speech from the White House, as he shifts focus from the healthcare law to the economy.

The unemployment rate dropped to seven percent Friday--the lowest in five years.

Forget the impact on the economy, the crisis for those who are unemployed an average of 37 weeks is real. For those over 50, there is a possibility that many will never work again given the ongoing hollowing out of the economy due to the president's policies.

The possibility that extending unemployment benefits actually discourages people from seeking work has to be weighed against the fact that many areas of the country have not recovered at all from the recession and that pockets of unemployment persist because jobs are few and far between. Even menial jobs are hard to come by in these areas.

Failure to renew extended unemployment will only force millions into federal poverty programs where benefits are far higher than unemployment insurance. Given the situation, it doesn't seem as if we have much choice in the matter but to extend benefits.

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