Washington’s Debt Panic and the Real Social Debt in America

10:48 am in Uncategorized by Michelle Chen

DonkeyHotey via flickr

Cross-posted from In These Times

In the wake of the Congressional Supercommittee’s collapse, we finally have consensus on both sides of the aisle: the lawmakers orchestrating the partisan drama are, behind the scenes, happy to collaborate on destroying economic security for all but the wealthiest Americans.

Though the debt hysteria made good political theater, the main immediate impact on the budget is simply to prolong the sense of doom hovering over struggling households. The budget problem those families face isn’t some theoretical future debt crisis but the possibility of losing unemployment checks when a year-end legislative deadline hits.

Federally funded unemployment benefits, which conservatives dismiss as a fluffy cushion for the shiftless poor, have been a lifeline for some 17 million Americans in the past three years. In addition to helping individual households pay their bills, the benefits have had a ripple effect on cities and towns battered by an anemic job market,  “contributing nearly $180 billion in hard cash to those communities struggling with severe unemployment,” according to a report issued in October by the National Employment Law Project. Read the rest of this entry →