The U.S. Commerce Department reports today that corporate profits are at a record high, at a time when corporations are sitting on $1.8 trillion in cash reserves. At the same time, 15 million Americans are still looking for work.
Two years after the financial collapse caused by right-wing deregulation and corporate greed, Wall Street is handing out its biggest bonuses in history -- more than $144 billion. At the same time, millions of working Americans are struggling to feed their families, pay their bills and keep a roof over their heads.
And the situation is set to get even more painful in the months ahead. Millions of Americans -- 2 million in December alone -- will be cut off from unemployment insurance. Republicans in Congress blocked an extension of this emergency lifeline just before leaving Washington, DC, for their Thanksgiving recess.
Most laid-off workers desperately want to get back to work. But the jobs are just not there. Yet, while families are struggling, the U.S. House failed to pass a much-needed extension in unemployment benefits. The members who voted to make life more difficult for the unemployed should hang their heads in shame. Their vote, one week before Thanksgiving, was disgusting.
Unemployment insurance gives a powerful boost to the economy. It creates jobs. Families that receive unemployment insurance put that money straight back into the economy. They spend the money on essentials -- like food for dinner, winter clothes for their kids and heat for their homes. Every dollar spent on unemployment insurance creates two dollars of economic activity, supporting local businesses, helping create jobs, and costing taxpayers less in the long run. Given how slow and fragile the economic recovery is right now, we need to put money back into the economy.
Americans strongly support extending unemployment insurance while so many remain out of work. A new poll by Hart Research Associates indicates that nearly three in four Americans say it is too early to cut jobless benefits. Republicans in Congress, however, seem uninterested in getting the economy moving and helping Americans through this crisis. They're more focused on tax cuts for millionaires.
Earlier this year Republican Sen. Jim Bunning of Kentucky single-handedly held up unemployment insurance payments to families struggling to get by. When a colleague tried to get him to stop his games, Republican Bunning replied: "Tough shit."
Unfortunately for millions of families this holiday season, more than a handful of Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives agree with Bunning. Incoming House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan (R-WI) says that the middle class should get assistance only when the rich get a tax cut. Tea Party leader Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) says she is only willing to compromise on taxes if unemployment insurance isn't part of the deal.
Wealthy Americans shouldn't be given tax breaks while millions of their fellow Americans lose their unemployment insurance. Working families -- who have been struggling to do more with less and less -- need a break, not the CEOs and the corporate conservatives. Congress must extend unemployment benefits for Americans struggling to find a job and keep the tax cuts for middle-class families. It's time to do what's right for Americans who've lost their jobs and for everyone who is struggling to survive the economic disaster created by Wall Street and their Republican allies.