The U.S. Senate today voted to restore unemployment benefits to millions of American who have been out of work for more than six months, breaking a threatened Republican filibuster as opponents of unemployment insurance have become increasingly defiant. It’s a delicate political dance: there is an undeniably difficult job market that has had a stranglehold on American workers for the better part of three years and the unemployed are dependent on these benefits just to stay afloat; meanwhile there is a multi-trillion dollar deficit that balloons a little every time Congress passes an extension of benefits. Republicans have been very careful to criticize unemployment benefits, saying that they’re needed but they must be paid for, although that didn’t stop them for almost uniformly voting against the extension today. How can we balance the need for a safety net with very real budget concerns?
Andrew Biggs, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute; former deputy commissioner of the Social Security Administration in the Bush Administration