Congress lets 1 million lose unemployment

Last week, the U.S. Congress turned its back on nearly one million unemployed people in the United States when it adjourned for the year without agreeing on legislation to extend federal benefits for laid-off workers. The last extension ends Dec. 28, when it is estimated 820,000 people will lose their unemployment benefits. Each week, another 92,000 will follow.

The last chance for the continuation of benefits is for the House of Representatives to approve the Senate’s bill, but Republican representatives are opposed to the measure. Republican support seems unlikely because many believe there are “exorbitant costs associated with it,” according to House Majority Leader Dick Armey, R-Texas.

If the politicians are looking for cuts, perhaps they should consider the certain effects of such a massive reduction in federal unemployment benefits. Many of those who need benefits are already poor. With no income, their landlords will turn them out onto the street and many will find their way to petty crime, hardly avoidable when the only places to sleep are private property. Incarceration follows when a criminal has no money for a fine.

Perhaps the general population is not aware that it is by far more expensive to incarcerate an individual than to pay unemployment benefits. So to the average citizen, criminals are more expensive to maintain than law-abiding unemployed persons. A large criminal population further degrades our society.

The emphasis in Washington right now is on national security and international conflicts. There seems to be little worry by any politicians about domestic issues. Nevertheless, unemployment does not cease to affect members of society, particularly when the economy is still recovering. While politicians might think they are saving Americans a small amount of money right now, in years to come, every taxpayer’s wallet will bear the heavier costs of letting unemployment benefits expire.