For Immediate Release: December 03, 2010
Wrong Time for Wrong Policy Debate
Following is a statement by Alan W. Houseman, executive director of CLASP, the Center for Law and Social Policy, regarding vulnerable families, unemployment and the deficit.
"There is a fundamental problem with the tenor of the national debate and some of our elected officials' policy priorities. Far too many of the nation's families are facing extraordinary hardship, yet some lawmakers are limiting the national policy debate to continued tax cuts for the richest Americans.
"The nation's unemployment rate inched up to 9.8 percent in November, marking the 19th consecutive month that it has remained above 9 percent. This means nearly one in 10 workers actively looking for a job can't find one, yet lawmakers allowed the unemployment benefits extension to expire earlier this week. Elected officials on both sides of the aisle now recognize the need to continue benefits given alarming levels of unemployment, but some continue to hold unemployment insurance hostage to their desire to preserve tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans.
"Unemployment is high, poverty is up, and millions more are living close to the edge. Today's employment situation report should give the nation's policymakers pause and motivation to change the tone of the national policy debate and get something done to improve the lot of families. A good start would be passing the unemployment benefits extension so that struggling workers and their families will not lose this important lifeline, and restoring the TANF Emergency Fund, which states used to provide subsidized jobs, mostly in the private sector, for nearly 250,000 otherwise unemployed parents and youth.
"At the same time, policymakers must focus more broadly on what it can do to immediately stimulate the economy and invest in programs that have long-term, lasting benefits for families. Earlier this week, the co-chairmen of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform released a controversial report that, among other things, underscored the stark choices the nation faces. While the commission didn't approve the recommendations, we believe policymakers should think hard about some of the report's guiding principles, particularly those that call for not interfering with the economic recovery and protecting the truly disadvantaged ."