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Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. Mr. Speaker, I am appalled, and my constituents are appalled, at the Republicans' disrespect and coldheartedness when it comes to extending unemployment benefits for out-of-work Americans. Some Republican Members of Congress and candidates in their party have suggested that unemployment insurance makes Americans too lazy to work. One Republican Member of the House even asked, ``Is the government now creating hobos?''
Maybe my Republican colleagues don't understand how unemployment compensation works. You only qualify for unemployment if you were employed. Far from being a handout to someone who doesn't want to work, unemployment benefits are specifically designed for people who want to work but who can't currently find work.
The Bush recession drove our economy off a cliff creating the worst economic conditions since the Great Depression. As a result, millions of Americans lost their jobs. Nearly 800,000 Americans lost their jobs in the last month of the Bush administration alone. Those are the facts.
Now we are beginning to recover from this near economic collapse. We've seen steady economic growth, including six straight months of private sector job growth, but there are still five unemployed Americans looking for work for every one job opening available.
The continued Republican opposition to helping out-of-work Americans is preposterous. It flies in the face of history. Since 1959, Congress has never let extended unemployment benefits expire when unemployment is over 7.2 percent.
My colleagues on the other side of the aisle claim that we can't afford to help unemployed Americans, but where were they when they ran up the deficit by passing tax cuts for the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans? Where were they when, year after year, President Bush's budget did not include the costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan?
Mr. Speaker, analysis from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office finds that extending unemployment benefits is one of the most cost-effective and fast-acting ways to stimulate the economy. Moreover, economists agree that extending these benefits will create jobs and decrease the chances of slipping into a double-dip recession. So not only is it the right thing to do to help people who are temporarily out of work, it is also one of the best ways to stimulate local economies, from the very smallest towns to the very biggest cities.
Let's do the right thing. Let's pass extended unemployment benefits.
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