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First of all, we're pretending that the economy is doing better because we have fewer people on unemployment, but that's for a number of factors, most of them not good. The austerians cut the number of weeks for available benefits. Plus, we've had a MASSIVE economic pivot that pushed people from full-time positions to contract work, which means they're not even eligible for unemployment. Unemployment is one of the few economic stimulus programs we still have, so you're damned right that any austerity deal better include federal unemployment extensions:
WASHINGTON -- Democrats in Congress demanded on Thursday that any upcoming "fiscal cliff" deal include a continuation of federal unemployment insurance, which is set to expire at the end of the year.
"We have 2 million families that are in a very difficult situation if we do not extend unemployment insurance benefits," Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) said during a press conference at the Capitol. "This is the real cliff."
Unless Congress acts to reauthorize federal benefits for the long-term unemployed, 2 million laid off workers will abruptly stop receiving benefits after Dec. 29, according to the National Employment Law Project, a worker advocacy and research group.
The unemployment lapse is one of the less-noticed elements of the so-called fiscal cliff, the moment at which a combination of spending cuts and tax hikes is scheduled to take effect. The biggest disagreement is over expiring Bush-era tax cuts; top Republicans want to keep all the cuts, while Democrats only want to renew them for annual household incomes below $250,000.
"The dire consequences of failing to help jobless Americans are not debatable," Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) said. "If there is an agreement on the fiscal cliff, unemployment insurance must be included. If there is not an agreement reached, we must extend unemployment separately."