No thanks to Idaho's entire congressional delegation, soon unemployment benefits will be restored to those whose were exhausted over the last seven weeks, as President Obama signed legislation on Thursday extending the federal program through the end of November. Nearly 11,500 Idahoans who, beginning in June, saw their benefits expire while Republicans, and some Democrats, successfully obstructed the program extension will receive backdated benefits. The Idaho Department of Labor estimated that approximately 22,000 could have been affected had Congress not acted.
Despite that, the Idaho delegation, including Congressman Walt Minnick, the lone Democrat, joined most congressional Republicans with a new-found sense of "fiscal restraint" in obstructing the legislation.
Opposition marked a change of heart for many Republicans who had voted for deficit-financed unemployment benefits in the past, including twice during George W. Bush's administration. Earlier this year, Republicans twice allowed temporary unemployment measures to pass without asking for a roll call vote.
Minnick summed up the sentiment of the delegation with a statement he gave IdahoReporter.com earlier this month. "I am absolutely opposed to digging the deficit hole deeper. I want to help them, but I want that help to be paid for," and he joined Congressman Mike Simpson in voting against the extension three times.
The delegation supported a naive and shortsighted Republican-led effort to pay for the extension through the use of unobligated stimulus funds which would be a little like giving a man the money to buy a fish and taking it from the fund that would teach that man to fish. The unemployed need help but not at the expense of job creation.
It's unclear where Minnick and the rest of the delegation would have the unemployed turn for help in an economy where, according to the Twin Falls Times-News, one in eight Idahoans is receiving federal assistance just to keep food on the table, an increase of 42.5 percent from March 2009 to March 2010 which was more than double the nationwide increase of 21.1 percent during the same span.
If you like that statistic, you'll love The Business Insider's proof of a "radically shrinking" middle class:
The 22 statistics detailed here prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the middle class is being systematically wiped out of existence in America. The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer at a staggering rate. Once upon a time, the United States had the largest and most prosperous middle class in the history of the world, but now that is changing at a blinding pace.
And here are some of the 22 statistics they cite; find the rest here:
- In America today, the average time needed to find a job has risen to a record 35.2 weeks.
- In 1950, the ratio of the average executive's paycheck to the average worker's paycheck was about 30 to 1. Since the year 2000, that ratio has exploded to between 300 to 500 to one.
- 61 percent of Americans "always or usually" live paycheck to paycheck, which was up from 49 percent in 2008 and 43 percent in 2007.
- For the first time in U.S. history, banks own a greater share of residential housing net worth in the United States than all individual Americans put together.
- For the first time in U.S. history, more than 40 million Americans are on food stamps, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture projects that number will go up to 43 million Americans in 2011.
- Approximately 21 percent of all children in the United States are living below the poverty line in 2010 - the highest rate in 20 years.
- Despite the financial crisis, the number of millionaires in the United States rose a whopping 16 percent to 7.8 million in 2009.
In an era of "too big to fail" are the poor and working class too small to matter? Apparently to some.