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Long-Term Unemployed Left Behind as 2012 Approaches

May 16, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

Even as the economy slowly recovers and new jobs are created, millions of the hardest hit unemployed continue to be left behind. In April, the number of unemployed workers who have been without a job for more than two years increased by 21,000 to 14.5% of all unemployed. As Lauren Victoria Burke reported recently following a meeting between Barack Obama and the Congressional Black Caucus, the very-long-term unemployed are being shut out of the conversation because their growing numbers contradict the economic picture the President is trying to paint:

The President does not seem deeply motivated to to actively support unemployment benefits in general terms. […] The White House also seems to bothered by the idea of bringing “unemployment” up while at the same time arguing that “jobs are being added and things are “slowly improving.” As 2012 approaches, the White House would seem more interested in PR and pandering to certain vote blocks than in “doing the right thing.” The “doing the right thing” argument has been brought up as a motivating reason to support H.R. 589 by several CBC members. The issue of stimulating the economy has also been mentioned. Problem is: Obama and his political strategists are assuming the black vote is theirs 24/7 no matter what.  With that said, why act on initiatives being pushed by black representatives in Congress? Where is the leverage? […] When the issue is discussed it happens because it is pushed on him rather than the other way around.

Burke does report some good new for the long-term unemployed:

The President mentioned he wants to possibly attach the 99ers money to some other big piece of legislation somehow… which piece, how and when is unclear…

Of course, Obama doesn’t decide what gets attached to legislation. Congress does, and so far there is no indication that Rep. John Boehner [R, OH-8] or Sen. Harry Reid [D, NV] are going to push for a benefits extension for 99ers. Obama does have the power of the veto, but all the inside-game reporting from Burke and others following this issue closely don’t inspire much confidence that he would actually demand an extension for 99ers as a condition for signing some “must-pass” bill.

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