Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, and senior House and Senate Democrats were joined by jobless Americans at a press conference to protect unemployment insurance benefits for American workers. Below are the Speaker's opening remarks and closing statement, and additional facts on unemployment insurance:
Speaker Pelosi Opening Remarks:
"Thank you very much, Edrie [Irvine], for your generosity of spirit to share your personal story with us. It is your story and the story of many in this room, and many, many more across the country -- you did what was right, you played by the rules, lost your job through no fault of your own, and we should have unemployment insurance at this very special time.
"But yesterday, the unemployment insurance expired. That means that unless we do something about it, by December 31, 2 million Americans will lose their unemployment insurance. The word is insurance -- they paid into it.
"This is something that is not only good for these families; it's the right thing to do in a downturn in our economy. But it's also the right thing to do to grow our economy. Economists tell us that unemployment insurance -- the non-partisan Urban Institute estimated that unemployment insurance returns $2 to the economy for every $1 spent. This is money that is needed by families to buy necessities, to heat their homes as Edrie said, and immediately injects demand into the economy -- creating jobs.
"That's why we are here today to call attention to why this is necessary for America's working families, but what it also does for the economy. I'm so pleased to be here with the Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis and thank her for the job she and the Obama Administration are taking the lead on -- unemployment insurance is a top priority for them. Of course, creating jobs is the top priority for all of us. And as we do that, we have to get through this time of downturn.
"I'm pleased to be here with Chairman Tom Harkin, the Chairman of the HELP Committee in the United States Senate, a champion for workers, his entire life in the Congress. Both of them -- Secretary Solis and Tom Harkin come with a lifetime of commitment on this issue. They bring standing, they bring commitment, and they will get results. We'll soon be joined by Congressman George Miller, the Chair of the Education and Labor Committee. Again, another champion. And Sandy Levin, the Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee. They are voting on the floor now and you hear the buzzers going off, but they'll be joining us shortly. As well as Congressman Jim McDermott, who has been a champion on this issue.
"I mention them because they are doing the work here, but what is important are the voices that you are hearing from the workers. And one of the great leaders in the labor movement, the AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler, spoke to us so eloquently about the need for the renewal of these benefits. She helped organize this event to help bring together a large group of Americans from now 17 states, who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own.
"We're going to hear also the real life stories of -- we heard Edrie Irvine and then we're going to hear Russ Meyer and Anthony Roebuck and their stories. Again, nothing is more eloquent than the personal stories of our workers and again, they represent not only their own families, but many other families as well.
"We're here at a time where a lot of issues are on the table and they're not unrelated. You hear talk about extending tax cuts to the wealthiest people in America. And those tax cuts we are told, should not be paid for. $700 billion in tax cuts to the top 2 percent in our country and our Republican colleagues say we should do that and we should not pay for it, we should add that $700 billion to the deficit. But when it comes to unemployment insurance and just the renewal we want to have, it costs $18 billion -- $700 billion vs. $18 billion -- they're saying that has to be paid for. Have to pay for unemployment insurance, we don't have to pay for tax cuts for the rich. Tax cuts for the rich do not create jobs. They haven't throughout the Bush Administration. Unemployment insurance creates jobs; does not add to the deficit. And the Republicans insist that that be paid for.
"So that's part of the debate that is going on here. I'm optimistic by the presence of so many of you here, by your presence speaking so clearly to the need, to your own determination to find work, the representation you are of so many other people out in the community, will make a difference. You all have made a difference in our country. I feel so proud to be standing among you, before you, the backbone of America, the people who have built our country, who have fought for our freedom, the people who are raising our families.
"This is the right thing to do -- on top of that it grows the economy, reduces the deficit. It scores, it's a win on every point. On behalf of the Members of Congress, some of whom will be joining us shortly, I want to thank all of you for what you do for our country, for your patriotism. I want to thank you for being here today to add your voices, not only add your voices, but amplify the voices of so many across the country. This has to be done, it's the right thing to do, it creates jobs, we're all committed to getting it done.
"Thank you for making it easier for us.
"And now, I'm pleased to introduce a powerful advocate for America's working families. I referenced her earlier -- Secretary Hilda Solis. And in acknowledging her and welcoming her to the podium, to also thank President Obama for his insistence that we pass unemployment insurance. Secretary Hilda Solis."
Speaker Pelosi Closing Statement:
"Thank you very much, Mr. McDermott, for your great words and for your great leadership, Mr. Levin as well, Mr. Miller is tied up on the floor and working hard to pass [child nutrition].
"Again, this is the right thing to do, it grows the economy, it creates jobs, it's absolutely necessary that we get it done. It's also important to note, as has been said, that over 2 million people will lose their benefits if we do not pass unemployment insurance. Also important to note, that this would be the first time in our country's history when would not have renewed unemployment insurance at this rate of unemployment. That is history we do not want to make. We must stop this.
"So I hope that you leave here, as Secretary Solis said, with some level of hope, that you have friends here, that we are fighting for you, and that we will not give up until unemployment insurance is passed. And I hope that you know how important your presence is here and the drumbeat across America that others who are looking for -- anybody here want a job? ["Yes!" - from audience]. I think so. Tell the Republicans because they have this impression that you'd rather have an unemployment check than a job. It's an excuse, it's not a reason for us not to go forward.
"So I want to give a special thanks to Edrie Irvine, Russ Meyer, and Anthony Roebuck for speaking so clearly about the pain of unemployment. When we look out here as Members of Congress, we see you coming here as the cavalry to take the Hill -- go to those Congressional offices, let them know that you are here, let them feel that red hot iron of pain that America's families are feeling across the country, make them do the right thing. Thank you all for being here. Onward to creating jobs for the American people."
Without Action, 2 Million Americans Will See Their Unemployment Insurance Benefits End This Holiday Season
Today an estimated 800,000 Americans looking for work woke up to the harsh reality that their unemployment benefits are ending because of obstruction from House and Senate Republicans who have refused to pass legislation extending this critical lifeline. Without action, 2 million Americans will see their benefits end this holiday season and an additional two million will lose benefits in early 2011. (Ways & Means Committee, state-by-state table of jobless workers who will lose benefits through end of this year)
Our fragile economy is still recovering from the worst recession since the Great Depression and too many Americans are looking but unable to find work. According to the Department of Labor, there are five unemployed workers for every job opening and the unemployment rate remains a stubbornly high 9.6 percent. Since 1959, Congress has not let unemployment benefits expire when the unemployment rate is higher than 7.2.%.
Unemployment insurance (UI) is a critical investment in our community and our economy. Not only do these benefits help Americans looking for work make ends meet -- they provide a proven boost to the economy.
From AP, "Jobless aid loss could choke economic growth"
If Congress lets unemployment benefits expire this week, the jobless won't be the only ones to feel the pain. The overall economy would suffer, too.
Unemployment benefits help drive the economy because the jobless tend to spend every dollar they get, pumping cash into businesses. A cut-off of aid for millions of people jobless for more than six months could squeeze a fragile economy, analysts say. Among the consequences they envision over the next year:
* Annual economic growth could fall by one half to nearly 1 percentage point.
* Up to 1 million more people could lose their jobs.
* Hundreds of thousands would fall into poverty. [11/30/10]
Los Angeles Times, "Loss of jobless benefits could be serious blow to U.S. economy"
The benefit payments have helped millions of families make ends meet. But they have also pumped billions of dollars into the financial bloodstream of the nation's economy as it has struggled to regain its footing after the worst recession in more than half a century.
Extending the payments, which average $310 a week, is seen by many experts as a way to prop up consumer spending, which accounts for 70% of the nation's economic activity.
"In terms of bang for buck that you get, this is one of the most effective things the government can do," said Justin Wolfers, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School. [12/1/10]
Despite the proven benefit to jobless workers, their families and the local economy, House and Senate Republicans are demanding that UI benefits be paid for at the same time they are insisting on adding $700 billion to the deficit for tax cuts for the wealthiest few -- millionaires and billionaires. (Citizens for Tax Justice report on "President Obama's Plan vs. Senate Republican Plan" which includes the percentage of residents by state and Congressional district who have an adjusted gross income above $250,000 and $1 million)
* For every $1 spent on UI, economic activity increases by about $2. [Department of Labor/Urban Institute, 11/16/10]
* The non-partisan CBO and chief economist Mark Zandi of Moodys.com have found unemployment to be one of the most cost-effective and fast-acting ways to stimulate the economy [CBO, 1/14/10; Testimony, 7/1/10]
* As UI benefits increase consumer demand, "extensions of unemployment insurance benefits in the past few years increased both employment and participation in the labor force..." [CBO 11/17/10]
* In the Bush recession, UI benefits kept an average of 1.6 million Americans on the job, and kept the unemployment rate about 1.2 percentage points lower. [Labor Department, 11/16/10]