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On Wednesday, it will have been five months since emergency aid for people unemployed for six months or longer expired. On Monday, it was seven weeks since the Senate passed a bill to extend the program. Then, help for millions of people struggling in an economy without enough jobs ran into the orange-brick wall of John Boehner, who has rebuffed appeals from members of his own caucus and the labor secretary alike. That means the prospects are poor:
[Democratic Rep. Sander] Levin says he and his colleagues in the House aren't ready to concede and will continue to press Boehner to take up the measure, but so far all of their requests to negotiate a new deal on unemployment have been ignored by the speaker. "I think if they put an answer in the mail they forgot to put a stamp on it," Levin says. But with a June 1 deadline around the corner, responsibility for reviving benefits will fall back to the Senate. After they went out on a limb in April, it'll be tricky to find the same level of bipartisan accord.
Many Republicans who oppose extending unemployment insurance say that without the aid to fall back on, people will be pushed back to work. But reality doesn't bear that out:
The economy has indeed improved, but not for the long-term unemployed, whose odds of finding a job are barely higher today than when the recession ended nearly five years ago. And the end of extended benefits hasn’t spurred the unemployed back to work; if anything, it has pushed them out of the labor force altogether.
Of the roughly 1.3 million Americans whose benefits disappeared with the end of the program, only about a quarter had found jobs as of March, about the same success rate as when the program was still in effect; roughly another quarter had given up searching.
Increased misery is the major result of the benefits cut-off, in other words. But there's plenty of reason to believe that's a good result as far as congressional Republicans are concerned.