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Middle class bears burden of unemployment and wage woes

At the end of 2013, Congress tentatively agreed to extend expiring unemployment benefits immediately upon its return in 2014. They voted on Feb. 6, and the bill failed a cloture vote by a margin of 59-41. You read that right. Failed—with 59 votes out of 100. Even while the solidly Republican House of Representatives would likely not act if the bill were passed, the Senate vote was a symbolic failure, and the most recent of many middle fingers that certain members of Congress have flipped in the direction of America’s middle class.

Because 41 Senators decided to vote against cloture, millions of Americans now no longer receive the benefits they need to pay off bills, put food on their tables, or even get to job interviews. Furthermore, President Obama proposed a hike of the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, which, while it has been applied to federal contractors, has still not been enacted in workplaces nationwide.

Congress needs to get off its tail and extend unemployment benefits. The minimum wage must go up as well. Both these initiatives would provide significant boosts to the still-lagging economy, as lower- and middle-class citizens would have a few hundred more dollars every month to spend on necessities or the occasional pleasures. The Congressional Budget Office reports that the United States is missing out on 200,000 jobs that could be created in 2014 with an extension, and a report from Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee indicated that the country lost $400 million from its economy one week after benefits expired.

An increase in the minimum wage would also put more money in the pockets of American consumers. A CBO report on the proposed $10.10 minimum wage shows that real income would increase by $5 billion for families under the poverty line, boost their average family income by 3 percent, and lift 900,000 people out of poverty. It is also about time the minimum wage is raised, since the last hike occurred over five years ago. Also, according to a 2012 Center for Economic and Policy Research study, the minimum wage would be over $20 per hour if it were adjusted to keep pace with productivity from 1968 to the present day.

American workers are suffering, and we have to help them. Our government has not served the people. Congress settled for one stimulus that, while slowing the economy’s freefall, did not provide the extensive job programs necessary to get people to work. After a few years of watered-down bills meant to provide at least some help to the struggling middle class, Congress was afflicted with severe polarization, sacrificing people’s livelihoods for the sake of petty political fights. Now our economy has been strangled with sequestration and tax hikes in an attempt to solve a nonexistent debt crisis. The deficit may have gone down, but the burden of the cost has fallen on the middle class because Congress ignored the economic truth that a government must spend to escape a recession even if it means raising the deficit, and then pay off the deficit when the economy is at full strength.

Now we are stuck in a nearly permanent state of deficit-hawk austerity and sluggish economic growth. President Obama and Congress must act. They need to pass an unemployment benefit extension as soon as possible and then raise the minimum wage. Fortunately, the president has proposed a 2015 budget that would increase spending on domestic programs like education, job training, and energy efficiency that can all help boost the economy and keep it strong in the years to come.

Not many of us at Georgetown are directly relying on unemployment benefits, but we all know someone who is on them, whose parents are on them, or who relies on a minimum wage job. Most students here work for minimum wage or close to it. While the District is ahead of the curve on this issue with its upcoming minimum wage raise to $11.50 by 2016, those who work in Maryland, Northern Virginia, or at home over the summer will need this raise to bring in more money to be able to spend at school or to pay off student loan interest a bit early. Of course, all of this is for naught if the Republicans play their typical spoiler role and continue to block any sort of progress. We can only hope that they come to their senses, but then again, that probably won’t happen any time soon.



9 comments on “Middle class bears burden of unemployment and wage woes
  1. antoinette petko on said:

    myself, family, friends and theirs friends and their friends will vote according to the outcome of the extended unemployment issue in congress!!! 2 million times 3,4,5 !!!!! come nov. see who will be unemployed!!!!

  2. Katie on said:

    I am with u. Congress gets paid 100,000 I am a single mom who has lost my apartment and now am going to lose my car if they don’t act. The fact that they can do this to 2 million Americans and continue to take there time with this decision is ludacris. Bet they don’t get unemployment when I don’t vote for they rebuplican ass and they not in office anymore.

  3. Savannah on said:

    This government of ours really needs to get off their high horses and take care of their own, not other countries!!! There are over 2 million of us U.S. citizens that have been waiting since December/January to see if the unemployment will be extended… We have bills to pay, we need food, and a roof over our heads! Student loans don’t pay for themselves ya know. I am fortunate that I will be able to attend school through the trade act and receive unemployment through them, but that is once I start school. So between now and then my bills will be unpaid and ruin my credit thanks to the morons in congress! I hope karma really bites you people in the ass someday, really fucking hard!!! And my venting is done…

    • AMEN!!! Savannah. When I got the breaking news that U.S. House overwhelming approves financial aid package for $1 billion for Ukraine….I was floored. We have over 2 million Americans who have lost their benefits and they cant come together and decide to extend the unemployment benefits. I like where their priorities are when it comes to the American people. We had to wait months and months and we are still waiting, and the Ukraine waited less than a week….How messed up is that.

      • i totally agree, these people have proved where there real ties are and its not with the american unemployed. i will do what ever i can do to get these people outed in the coming elections with all i have in me. if they don’t start thinking about the people who need this support like yesterday then they need to feel whats its like to not have a check to pay bills ect . but they don’t care they are on a power trip and don’t give a rats ass about us . well they better start soon is all i can say.

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  5. annita davis on said:

    Yip. There’s always money to send overseas! Sometimes to countries that hate the US. I get so angry about how the Congress just talks and talks but acts like they have all the time in the world to take care of the suffering citizen here at home!!! I don’t understand unless they want us all in homeless shelters totally dependent on their scraps!!! They ( Democrats and Republicans) all are very well taken care of. I wish, more than anything, that they could trade places with us if only for a week. That’s the only way OUR paid servants would get it!!!

  6. annita davis on said:

    Yip. There’s always money to send overseas! Sometimes to countries that hate the US. I get so angry about how the Congress just talks and talks but acts like they have all the time in the world to take care of the suffering citizen here at home!!! I don’t understand unless they want us all in homeless shelters totally dependent on their scraps!!! They ( Democrats and Republicans) all are very well taken care of. I wish, more than anything, that they could trade places with us if only for a week. That’s the only way OUR paid servants would get it!!!

  7. Amy B on said:

    I WISH THE WRATH OF KARMA & LIVLIHOOD DEMISE UPON EACH MEMBER OF CONGRESS THAT HAS NOT SUPPORTED THIS CRUCIAL LIFELINE FOR THE STRUGGLING CITIZENS THEY ARE PAID TO SERVE. THEY NEED TO GO, SO THAT THEY CAN BE REPLACED BY THOSE MORE WORTHY TO SERVE OUR NEEDS – NOT THE FOREIGN COUNTIES, OVERINFLATED MILITARY & ITS ENDLESS “BOY WARS”, WEALTHY & POWERFUL SPECIAL INTERESTS, OR MEGA RICH GREEDY CORPORATIONS WHO THROW THE WORKERS WHO MAKE THEIR CORPORATIONS MEGA WEALTHY A MINIMUM WAGE BONE!!! Watch the free Utube movie “Thrive”…..very eye-opening….a must-see by everyone!

  8. Even though we grow our own food.git our water from tha mountain and are basically self sufficient…bboth wife and i depend on unemployment fer tp.gas.n other essentials…an all tha money we do git goes RIGHT back into tha economy..its not like we are saving any $$ n squirrelin it away..and the balls of it all..we have to pay taxes on it that goes right back into tha pockets of tha knuckleheads that are agin it…in a pickle over here…although we do have a farm and are lookin fer people to help us..so if losing house car etc…give us a shout..we do have space here n would love to help..

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