How the GOP Could Steal Xmas

Flickr/<a href="">aflcio</a>

Here’s some holiday gloom for you: Two million out-of-work Americans will lose their safety net this month if Congress fails to extend temporary unemployment insurance. Another seven million will lose their benefits within the year. And the economy could shed 0.6 percentage points in gross domestic product if jobless benefits aren’t extended. Those are the grim highlights of a new report (PDF) by the White House’s Council of Economic Advisers.

The White House’s latest report gives supporters of extending jobless benefits, mostly Democrats, more ammunition. For instance, the report found that 14 million jobless Americans received financial support as of October. For some families, these benefits are crucial to staying afloat: In 42 percent of households where there’s one earner and that person collects unemployment insurance, the elimination of these benefits would wipe out 90 percent of their income.

By not acting sooner, Congress has already allowed two emergency forms of unemployment insurance to begin to expire on Wednesday. The benefits were originally created in 2008, as the economy collapsed and unemployment soared. Now, however, lawmakers can’t reach a compromise on whether to continue them. Republicans refuse to support the benefits because they’d add to the deficit, even though members of both parties have traditionally approved unemployment benefits because they’re an “emergency” measure.

When asked on Thursday about Republican intransigence, Austan Goolsbee, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, pointed out the GOP was denouncing the extention of jobless benefits while simultaneously demanding tax cuts for the rich—which would also add to the deficit. “The Republicans arguing that we should pay for emergency unemployment insurance but not pay for high-income tax extensions does not make any sense,” he told reporters.

Unlike the tax cuts, Goolsbee said, failing to extend unemployment insurance threatens to derail the economy’s tepid recovery. “Letting millions more Americans fall into hardship will hurt our economy at this critical point in our recovery and immediately undermine consumer spending,” he said.


Mother Jones was founded as a nonprofit in 1976 because we knew corporations and the wealthy wouldn’t fund the type of hard-hitting journalism we set out to do.

Today, reader support makes up about two-thirds of our budget, allows us to dig deep on stories that matter, and lets us keep our reporting free for everyone. If you value what you get from Mother Jones, please join us with a tax-deductible donation so we can keep on doing the type of journalism that 2018 demands.

Donate Now
  • Andy Kroll

    Andy Kroll is an investigative reporter at Mother Jones. For more of his stories, click here. Follow him on Twitter here. Send tips, scoops, and documents to akroll (at) motherjones (dot) com.