It is shocking that Republicans have refused to include an extension of unemployment benefits in today’s budget agreement. At the end of December, federal unemployment benefits will expire for 1.3 million jobless workers. Lawmakers must not desert these workers by going home for their own holidays without extending the federal unemployment benefits program.
The budget agreement negotiated by Rep. Ryan and Sen. Murray provides temporary relief from sequestration budget cuts over the next two years, but does not represent the clean break from budget austerity that our economy so urgently needs.
We applaud Sen. Murray for resisting Republican demands to cut Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare benefits and food assistance for people with low incomes.
Yet this budget agreement does nothing for the millions of people who remain without work and asks nothing from the people who caused our economic crisis and continue to benefit from economic inequality.
The agreement unfairly demands more sacrifice from federal employees, who had already contributed $114 billion to deficit reduction in the previous three years. By asking new federal employees to pay more out of pocket for their pensions, the agreement undermines retirement security.
The agreement further undermines retirement security by increasing the fees paid by private firms to the Pension Benefits Guaranty Corporation (PBGC), which will likely be used to justify new rounds of pension dumping by healthy companies.
Meanwhile, at the insistence of Rep. Ryan, the agreement does not demand any sacrifice from the wealthy or from Wall Street. It is hard to justify demanding further sacrifice from federal employees and private sector workers while continuing costly tax preferences for Wall Street investment managers and companies that send jobs overseas.
The urgent business before us now is fixing what’s wrong with our economy. The real problem is that unemployment is too high and wages are too low. Sequestration makes both these problems worse and needs to be repealed—not replaced with other harmful cuts. Even that will not be enough, however. We call on Congress to enact a jobs bill, invest in our future, raise the minimum wage to $10.10, and devote its full attention to restoring full employment and raising wages.