Benefits extension a necessary action

There was good news for Daniel Stark this week. Thanks to an article in Monday’s Daily Sentinel about the unemployed heavy-equipment mechanic and single father from Clifton, Stark was offered and has accepted gainful work.

But thousands of other Coloradans on the unemployment rolls — and many more around the country — aren’t as fortunate.

Like Stark, their unemployment benefits have run out. But they haven’t found new jobs. And, unless the Senate acts soon, they will be without temporary income, as well as jobs.

When Congress reconvenes next week, the Senate must pass the extension of unemployment benefits. With millions of people still in serious financial distress and the U.S. economy still shedding jobs, the extension is critical.

Those who argue that extending benefits will simply provide a disincentive for people to find jobs apparently haven’t been job hunting themselves lately.

We understand the concern of a majority of Republicans that extending benefits will add to the exploding federal deficit. That can’t be denied. And the $34 billion in additional unemployment benefits is not chump change. But it is necessary to keep people afloat as they seek work during this recession. And the alternative is also costly — millions more seeking public assistance.

Extending unemployment benefits is a far different calculation than the one some economists and government officials are making as they argue for another round of federal stimulus spending. That will significantly exacerbate the federal deficit — by hundreds of billions of dollars, if some advisers have their way. And, if the past year and a half is a roadmap, the results will be of dubious benefit.

The Daily Sentinel supported stimulus spending last year for specific public infrastructure projects that will have a long-term benefit for commerce in this country — roads, bridges and airports, for instance.

But the stimulus bill that was ultimately approved by Congress was packed with pork for nearly every congressional district — projects that might create short-term jobs for someone’s favorite government facility, but were of little long-term value. It also provided billions of dollars to keep some government workers on the payroll.

We would have preferred a stimulus bill that focused more on creating private jobs over more public-sector jobs — better tax credits for businesses that hire new workers, for example.

But the stimulus debate aside, keeping unemployment benefits flowing for those who are trying to find work is imperative. When that occurs, we can only hope that many thousands of other Americans will be as fortunate as those lucky few to find jobs that make their dependency on unemployment benefits unnecessary.


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