You’ve reached the activism portion of today’s show. Now that you’re informed and angry, here’s what you can do about it. Today’s activism: Bolstering Unemployment Benefits with the 2016 Budget.
I’ve had my differences with the president during his tenure in office, but I'm a pragmatic fan of good ideas. And fixing our busted unemployment insurance system is a very, very good idea. Building that kind of meaningful, benefit extending, life changing reform into the budget is even better than a good idea.
As a whole, the budget is solid enough that the typically critical folks at Common Dreams are fans of what they’ve seen so far. Dave Johnson describes the White House’s move to the left and the end of the austerity mindset still reigning from the sequester this way:
"President Obama is using his 'bully pulpit' to push the country in a new direction. The President has submitted a budget that calls for more public investment in vital areas, and pays for it with more taxes on the wealthy. He has drawn a dividing line between a Reaganomics era of 'trickle down' favors for the wealthy combined with cuts, austerity and intentional economic pain and harm, and a return to an era of a government that does things that make people’s lives better.”
A large part of "making people’s lives better" is redesigning “triggers” that kick in unemployment insurance benefits so that they are available early enough in a downturn and don’t require action by Congress — which typically comes after a recession is in full swing. The unemployment reform even has bipartisan roots — something that may make you cringe, but is necessary with a Republican-controlled Congress. Also, the plan makes sense.
As Danny Vinik writes at The New Republic:
"The plan has two components. One would offer states financial rewards for changing the eligibility criteria so that more people who work part-time or who work on and off are eligible for benefits. The second part would encourage states to implement programs to promote reemployment…[S]tates could offer the unemployed relocation vouchers to move where jobs are more widely available, an idea that Republican Senator John Thune proposed in 2014. States could also support more extensive reemployment services and job training programs.”
So if your job is actually GONE and not just downsized or restructured, you could get help learning new skills. And if your job hops a state border or too many towns over to commute, you could get a hand relocating. This seems like common sense not just because it’s helpful, but because getting people employed quickly is less expensive than long-term unemployment or social programs. It should be win-win from any perspective.
Luckily, we have enough time before the budget will hit the floor to make the unemployment boost popular, giving opinion poll cover to the White House and creating a PR nightmare for conservative congress members who would lobby to nix it.
Call the White House at 202-456-1111 and let the president know you support an un-compromised budget with none of the unemployment reform bargained away in the months to come. You can always tweet to @WhiteHouse and @BarackObama to leave a public comment that encourages others to do the same. Information on writing and emailing the White House can be found at WhiteHouse.gov/contact.
Then, use ContactingTheCongress.org to let your representatives in Congress know you support this provision of the 2016 budget and you expect them to publicly do the same.
Let the White House know you support the unemployment provisions of the 2016 budget via phone (202-456-1111), email/mail and via Twitter to @WhiteHouse and @BarackObama
Use ContactingTheCongress to let your reps know you expect them to publicly support the unemployment plan.
"Obama's Budget Proposes a Major Overhaul of Unemployment Insurance” by Danny Vinik at The New Republic
"U.S. jobless claims fall as labor market gains momentum” by Lucia Mutikani at Reuters
"Obama Budget Signals End Of Austerity, Return Of Sanity” by Dave Johnson at Common Dreams
Hear the segment in context:
Written by BOTL social media/activism director Katie Klabusich