Unless Congress takes dramatic action today, roughly 127,000 Illinoisans will exhaust their unemployment insurance this evening.
Today marks the funding deadline for two federal programs that, for roughly two years, have provided extended benefits to Americans looking for work. In the last 40 years, the U.S. has never allowed jobless insurance to expire when unemployment was so high. And why should we? Providing a paycheck to those who've been thrown out of their jobs during the worst recession in decades is humane and economically beneficial.
Fresh off their Election Day gains, Republicans in Washington want to pursue their campaign pledge of extending the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. Some progressives think Democrats should use the unemployment insurance programs as a bargaining chip to pass a compromise on the tax plan. U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk doesn't seem interested. In two separate interviews recorded by the Wonk Room, Illinois' new senator claimed the benefit extension would be "misguided" but the tax cut should be handed over to millionaires "no matter what" the effect on the nation’s budget. Watch:
Only 32 percent of respondents in a recent survey of Illinois voters thought the tax cuts should remain in place for all income levels. Perhaps Kirk should remember that when he votes from his new perch.