It's been over five years since the beginning of the Great Recession, and unemployment is still a major economic hurdle in the United States, with long-term unemployment extremely problematic as over 4.6 million Americans have been jobless for at least 27 weeks, according to the latest job figures.
But when a hearing Thursday on long-term unemployment held before the 19-member Joint Economic Committee began, it was with just a single lawmaker in attendance. Panelists testifying on the problem and discussing its potential solutions spoke only to Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), the committee's vice-chair, for the beginning of the nearly 90-minute session.
Three more Democrats arrived later to join in the meeting, Senator Christopher Murphy (D-CT) arrived eight minutes into the hearing. Then when the hearing had been under way for 35 minutes, Representative John Delaney (D-MD) arrived, and eventually Representative Elijah Cummings (D-MD) joined in bringing the crowd to four.
Didn't anyone else get the memo?
The National Journal reports:
"When a hearing to explore how to get the long-term unemployed back to work kicked off on Wednesday morning, only one lawmaker was in attendance. That was Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who was holding the hearing in her role as the vice chair of the Joint Economic Committee. The Joint Economic Commitee is one of a handful of committees whose members come from both parties and both houses of Congress. Klobuchar was eventually joined by three colleagues (in order of their appearance): Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy, Maryland Rep. John Delaney and Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings. All four are Democrats."
"Lawmaker schedules are often packed with votes, hearings, meetings, press conferences, the works. By 10:30 a.m., when the long-term unemployment hearing began, more than 25 hearings had already kicked off in the House and Senate. But elected officials also often try to show up at important hearings, even if only for a few minutes, for no other reason than to be seen. For a group that often bickers over how to solve the nation’s biggest economic problems, Wednesday’s hearing represented a perfect chance to do just that: be seen discussing how to tackle the intractable problem of long-term unemployment."
Kevin Hassett, a former economic advisor to failed Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney, called long-term unemployment a “national emergency” at Wednesday’s committee hearing.
Some of the possible solutions discussed at Thursday's hearing included: equipping the unemployed with new skills; encouraging the private sector to hire more of the long-term unemployed by providing incentives, such as tax breaks or subsidies; improving the economy; and improving education.