Jun 4, 2012
Three states – Michigan, Florida and Georgia have cut their basic unemployment benefits coverage from 26 weeks to 20 weeks. And the federal government is in the process of eliminating most of the temporary extensions that once provided 99 weeks of coverage.
There could be no clearer statement about which class the Democrats and Republicans both serve. The real number of unemployed is higher than it has ever been, and the number of long-term unemployed remains higher than at any time before this current bout of unemployment began. And yet, they cut.
Last fall, and then again in February, the Democrats and Republicans agreed to “renew” some of the various extensions, but they filled those extensions with automatic shut-off provisions. And so today, benefit extensions are disappearing in one state after another. There are only three states left – Nevada, New Jersey and Rhode Island – where the unemployed can still draw 99 weeks. Forty-three states have cut off five months of benefits already. More are poised to do the same thing – or cut even more.
Why would anyone cut unemployment benefits in a time like this? Who is this useful for? Who, but a voracious capitalist class pushing to drive down wages!
For the working class, unemployment benefits are not an answer to the crisis – all the more so, since whether we get them depends on the good will of politicians who tie themselves, hands and feet, to the capitalist class.
Waiting on those politicians, hoping for their “good will” is no answer to the crisis either.
What working people need are jobs, jobs and a wage that lets every one of us enjoy a comfortable life.
In the face of the unemployment, there are some obvious steps that should be taken. The big corporations are making record profits today. Prohibit them from laying off any more people. Prohibit them from pushing more work onto some workers, while laying off others. Prohibit them from cutting wages.
Today, one worker does the work that not so long ago would have been done by two or three workers. Well, split up those back-breaking jobs – hire the two or three needed to make every job tolerable. Divide up the work among all those who want to work – with no loss in pay.
It’s completely reasonable, it’s what’s called for: the right to a job, a decent paying job, for everyone. But we won’t get it by waiting on someone else to get it for us.
A job for everyone – aims like that can be imposed, but only by the working class, when workers bring their forces together to make a fight.
Until recently, there has been little sign of a fight. But here and there we have seen some workers breaking out: teachers in Maryland demonstrate when promises are broken; Caterpillar workers, threatened with plant closing, refuse more concessions; Lockheed workers stay on strike when the boss wants to divide them further into two and three tiers; city workers in Detroit, threatened with the complete loss of their jobs, prepare themselves for a fight.
Compared with what needs to be done, these might seem like baby steps. But babies quickly learn. And what’s important is that some workers today seem ready to buck the tide. More should join them.