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Holiday in Austerity Land: 1.3 Million Americans Lose Jobless Benefits

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Source: The Nation


When it was initially discussed as a rude repercussion of a bungled budget deal, the prospect that 1.3 million Americans would lose long-term unemployment benefits just days after Christmas was bad enough.

Now that the day has come, however, it stands as a stark reminder of the extent to which the United States has regressed from the days when Franklin Delano Roosevelt greeted the holiday season with a celebration of the fact that "today neighborliness no longer can be confined to one's little neighborhood. Life has become too complex for that. In our country neighborliness has gradually spread its boundaries -- from town, to county, to State and now at last to the whole Nation."

Imagine a country that during the week between Christmas and New Year's Day abandons those hit hardest by economic turbulence, and you have a sense of what the United States has become under the cruel hand not just of House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan -- who refused to agree to any budget deal that included an extension of benefits -- and those members of Congress, Republicans and Democrats, who compromised with the failed Republican vice presidential candidate's austerity agenda.

Because Congress accepted Ryan's crude calculus, 1.3 million jobless Americans were abandoned on December 28 by a government that could, and should, have assisted them. And if Ryan continues to get his way, unemployment benefits will end in coming months for an additional 1.9 million Americans.

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John Nichols, a pioneering political blogger, has written the Online Beat since 1999. His posts have been circulated internationally, quoted in numerous books and mentioned in debates on the floor of Congress.

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