All In   |  December 09, 2013

A tough holiday ahead for the unemployed

Chris Hayes talks to Rep. Jerry Nadler and Heather Boushey about why an unemployment benefits extension may, or may not, pass in Congress.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> joining me now back in this real reality, congressman jerry nadler , democrat from new york. we are tantalizingly close to the alternate universe we just showed in which we just got this done. is it going to happen? you've got one week in capitol hill to get this thing passed. is it going to happen?

>> i don't know. at this point, we just don't know. i hope so, obviously. senator murray on behalf of the democrats in the senate and congressman paul ryan on behalf of republicans in the house are trying to negotiate a budget agreement. the democrats in the house are yment insurance.he budget the republicans are opposed to that. whether it will get in or not, i don't know.

>> why are they opposed to it? what possible -- i mean --

>> they have come -- well, you heard rand paul before. you ran rand paul saying he thought it was a disincentive to unemployment and causes people not to work, which is absurd. the academic research shows just the opposite, number one, and number two, in an environment in which there is simply no employment, which there are three applicants for every job, all that the cessation of unemployment insurance does, aside from making people starve, is remove some money from society, from the economy so that people who no longer get unemployment insurance are buying much less, and therefore, other people are not working to supply their needs, and it increases the joblessness. the estimate is that cessation of these benefits would increase unemployment, increase unemployment by about 300,000 to 350,000 people.

>> so, how is it not the case that they do not -- this is one of those, you know, defined political gravity moments we see so often. there's a clear substantive case for it. politically, i think it's broadly popular. how do you wear them down? like, how can they stand against this? why don't they feel any heat for it?

>> because the people who are victims of this don't vote for them, or at least they don't think they vote for them. it's the same with food stamps . it used to be there was a wall-to-wall consensus that in a time of recession, when unemployment is high, you had extended unemployment benefits and increased food stamps , and that in fact --

>> and that wasn't like a partisan political issue. that was just what you did.

>> no, that was wall-to-wall, right to left, everybody agreed to that. one of the things we said were the programs like unemployment insurance , food stamps , when you had a recession, people were out of work, more people got unemployment insurance , more people got food stamps , that's when you should spend more money on this and that helped sustain the economy so it didn't collapse completely and helped restore employment. now you've got a lot of republicans who just don't believe that anymore, and a school of, i won't say a school of economics, because i don't think there are any self-respecting economists who believe this, but a school of political people --

>> right.

>> -- who say that this just causes dependency and i think the tea partiers in particular think the enemy is dependency and people who are dependent on unemployment insurance or food stamps are going to vote democratic and take the country away.

>> there is also the arguments republicans are saying, simultaneously, saying, you know, the economy is good enough that people who want to find work should be able to find it. we don't need this emergency measure anymore, and at the same time, of course, the obama care economy is horrible, obama socialism is destroying our economy and no one can get a job.

>> well, whatever reason you ascribe to the fact that we are in a weak economy, the fact is, unemployment is 7%. the percentage of the people in the workforce is about 63% of the working age , which is the low for a long time. the economy is not good. it may be better than it was a year ago, but it's not good. unemployment is very high. the ability -- there are three applicants for every job. making people more desperate to get jobs, even if it meant that someone was so desperate that he got a job he wouldn't otherwise would have gotten, if you're not increasing the number of jobs, that simply means you're throwing someone else out of work.

>> right. congressman jerry nadler , who's been fighting these battles for a while now, thank you so much for joining me. appreciate it.

>> thank you.

>> joining me now, heda bruche with the washington center for equitable growth, housed at the center for american progress , a progressive think tank . heather, can we start basic here? what is unemployment insurance and why do we have it?

>> thanks for asking, chris. that's a great question. unemployment insurance are benefits there when somebody loses their job through no fault of their own. it's benefits that are supposed to help them make ends meet while they search for a new job, and critically, these benefits help keep the economy afloat in communities that have high unemployment. you've got a lot of unemployed people, they can't pay their rent, can't buy groceries. these benefits help sort of fill in that gap. and so, you know, now, because we continue to have relatively high unemployment, these benefits play a very important role in people's lives and in communities all around the country.

>> one thing that congressman nadler and i didn't get to, which is really important there was a great "the new york times" article i think about a week ago. there is a group of people who have been unemployed for a long period of time and there's a kind of self-perpetuating cycle that kicks in where employers appear reticent to hire people who have been unemployed for a long time, therefore making them unlikely to stay employed.

>> exactly. i mean, this is one of, quite frankly, one of the saddest stories of the great recession. you've got a lot of people who have been out there pounding the pavement for months, if not years, trying to find a new job. and each month that they spend unemployed makes it just a little bit harder. employers, you know -- let's think just for a moment about young workers, right? why would an employer hire somebody who's, you know, 23, 24, 25, who's been out of work, when they can hire a newly minted graduate, right? they might want to go for the newly minted person, rather than somebody who's been out of work and maybe they have fears about how they would perform. of course, the reality is those folks are ready to work, they've got a lot of skills, but you're seeing, we could call it discrimination going on towards the long-term unemployed, and it's a real tragedy, because people do need to get back to work.

>> i thought this from the " wall street journal " was interesting about some of the research on how long-term, emergency unemployment insurance that extends past the normal limits has helped workers. the researchers found the extended benefits essentially delayed the exit of workers who eventually left the labor market . it didn't seem to produce the job finding rate," contra rand paul ," but for people employed a long time, kept them in the labor force . in other words, people who had things to contribute to our society were kept looking for a job because they had this money coming in.

>> exactly. so, what unemployment benefits do is they give people that time to search for the new job. it helps tie them over, it helps keep them searching week after week. when you get those unemployment benefits , you have to continually say that you are able, willing to work, you're actively seeking a job. so, this is a really important way to keep people tethered to the labor market . you know, one of the problems we're seeing is that the share of americans with a job is still hovering just a few tenths of a percentage points above the darkest da still aren't at work, and keeping them attached to the labor force , keeping them searching and giving them that income that they very much need while they're doing so really does help them find the better fit, help them find that new job.

>> this is one of these situations, and we've seen a number of them, where congress can just do this very straightforward, simple thing. it could take a vote. it doesn't have to craft legislation. it just has to do the simple thing. it's got a time limit . it would reduce the sum total of misery. it would be better for everyone in the society. it would be better for places trying to sell things. it would be better for everyone around. heather boushey from the washington center for equitable growth, thank you. coming up, rand paul is trying to drum up african-american votes for the republican party .

>> showing your driver's license to have an honest election i think is not unreasonable.

>> yes, that guy. that story's