Oct 8, 2001
President Bush announced, with great fanfare, that unemployment benefits would be extended for 13 weeks and that three billion dollars would be given as “national emergency grants” to state governments to help cover the cost of growing unemployment.
His statement got a lot of play on TV and in the press – you would almost have thought he had offered something. In reality, Bush is proposing to only slightly change the point at which extended unemployment compensation benefits automatically kick in. Under current rules all states provide 26 weeks of unemployment benefits until unemployment reaches a high level in the state. Then the federal government automatically finances a 13-week extension of the benefits. Bush is simply proposing to change this formula sightly to kick in the extended benefits if unemployment has gone up in any state more than 30% since September 11 – and perhaps if the president finds that a state is in a state of emergency.
But, as the New York Times admits, it is unlikely that any state will register a 30% increase in unemployment any time soon. Moreover, by setting September 11 as the beginning point, he eliminated the sharp increase in unemployment which has occurred since last October – an almost 30% increase!
As it is, only about one out of every three laid off workers qualifies for unemployment benefits to begin with. Years ago, about one half of all workers qualified. But eligibility has been whittled down year after year for many years now. And there is nothing in the proposal to change the restrictions so that more unemployed workers could qualify.
There is nothing in the proposal which would improve the level of payments. The level of unemployment benefits varies widely from state to state, but is not high enough to allow unemployed workers and their families to survive even in the states where benefits are the highest. These payments have been whittled away by inflation over the past 20 years.
Compare the 3-billion-dollar price tag of this pitiful proposal to Bush’s “economic stimulus” package which is estimated to cost at least 75 billion. Under the guise of “stimulating the economy,” Bush proposes to hand over billions to corporations and wealthy individuals – with a couple hundred dollars more in a tax cut for everyone, in order to cover up what he is doing.
This really shows what the government’s priorities are; and what a total servant of the rich George Bush really is... whether in time of peace or war.