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Editorials

December 27, 2013

Unemployment benefits must be extended

There is something terribly wrong in a country that doesn’t seem to care about 1.3 million of its citizens — many of them who head families that include young children — going hungry … or without shelter or any of the other necessities the rest of us take for granted.

Yes, America, upon whom the deity shed His grace and crown its good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea.

On Saturday, federal unemployment benefits end for 1.3 million people who have exhausted their state unemployment benefits, but still can’t find work.

When last seen, members of Congress were patting themselves on the back as they left town with a bipartisan budget agreement that did not include an extension of federal unemployment benefits.

Republicans are rightfully blamed for blocking the benefits — which had almost routinely been extended 11 times over the last five years. Gotta draw the line on the budget, they say, even as our government’s corporate welfare continues to obscenely skyrocket.

But the Democrats do not go without blame. They could have — should have — fought harder for some of our most vulnerable Americans.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says extending the benefits will be the Democrats’ top priority when Congress reconvenes in January, but people are hurting right now, and there is no guarantee that anything will pass.

Many opponents seem to view recipients as freeloading bums who refuse to work because it’s easier to feed at the public trough. We feel sorry for those who hold those opinions, but not as sorry as we feel for those who desperately need the benefits to scrape by.

The idea that the vast majority of beneficiaries don’t want to work is absurd. The maximum weekly unemployment benefit in New York state is $405. In Louisiana, it’s $258 per week. Try supporting a family on that.

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