Melissa Harris-Perry | December 08, 2012
>>> for most americans , a fiscal cliff would be more of a slide. most of us will feel the impact gradually. for millions, the consequences will be immediate and severe. while the national unemployment rate dropped to 7.7%, the long-term unemployment numbers, those for whom finding wosh has been elusive for six months or more, now includes 4.8 million americans . those folks are at particular risk. that's because december 31st is also the expiration date for federal emergency unemployment insurance . the program passed into law in 2008 uses federal dollars to give extra weeks of jobless benefits to unemployed americans who have already passed the cutoff for their state benefits . if no deal is reached, 2. 1 million people will see an immediate end to their federal -- to fall off the edge of that cliff without a net.
>> back with me david k. johnson, sanchez and carmen wong ulrich and greg kaufman, a contributor for the nation. he has been one of the most consistent voices for poverty in america , regularly wlriting about this on his weekly blog. this feels like for these 2 million people, it is a cliff.
>> it absolutely is a cliff. first, i want to thank you for your weekly below the line segment. it is a real service. you were mentioning the 2 million people that will immediately lose benefits. by the end of the first quarter next year, another 1 million and if we don't renew the insurance program, unemployment insurance program, more than 5 million people next year will lose benefits. that's going to have a real impact from a poverty perspective. in 2002 , unemployment insurance kept 3.2 million people from falling into poverty. last year, 2.3 million. part of the reason for that decline is, i'm sure the congresswoman knows, there was a provision that provided an extra $25 a week for people. that was not renewed.
>> hundreds of thousands of children are part of that, right?
>> that's right. 620,000 kids in 2011 . if we don't renew the unemployment insurance program, you are going to see that impact in the numbers of people living in poverty in 2013 .
>> this is kind of the ultimate fiscal cliff situation.
>> this is so much more terrifying to me than at the cut of anything else. here is the thing. even if you are one of those automatons who doesn't care about these people, on the other side of it, we are talking about the economy, participating in the economy. you take out $30 billion, which is the money that goes to these folks, you take that out of the economy, all that money gets spent instantly. if you remove that, you are going to in essence lose. that $30 billion turns into closer to $48 billion in terms of spending, keeping jobs, at not just their jobs but keeping the jobs of other workers. these folks are not sitting around. the jobs don't exist. they are not there.
>> not only are they not sitting around. i love where we saw this new research that folks that are receiving unemployment benefits spend more hours per day.
>> part of the requirement.
>> looking for work than folks that don't do it.
>> they will make more money if they can get a job. we don't have the jobs. we have 12 years of experience with the bush tax cuts . we've lost almost one year's wages over those 12 years compared to where we were if you adjust for inflation and the number of people since 2000 . it has been an utter failure. we can't afford a little more taxes for people that have more than none but people out of work without children we are going to cut money out of their benefits.
>> when we looked at average benefits collected by workers, we are looking at $291 a week, which for most of these families means not even half of their basic expenses are covered. this is just keeping people from being not just below the line but so far below the line . is this a place where democrats an republicans can come together in congress?
>> i come from orange county $67892. $200 a month, that's average. if you were making a lot, your payment might be $400, $500. if you were barely making minimum wage , it would be $100. if you look at the high cost of housing in orange county , it doesn't cover anything. people are really struggling. here is the problem. we have extended and done this now in the last three or four years, i think, three times as i recall. i voted each and every time to help with this. each time it has become more and more difficult to find the votes. especially in the house of representatives . in the chamber where i work, the republicans control it. what most people don't realize is to a large extent, the person who controls house of representatives , it's a win or take all system, speaker boehner has to decide to bring this up, speaker boehner has to decide that a majority of his people will come on that vote. we democrats can certainly help. he is not going to bring something to the house floor where it's 200 democrats and 19 republicans and the rest of his republicans vote against it. that's against his own interest. he won't bespeaker very long. that's reality in which i work. majority o f republicans in the house of representatives have got to believe in this. honestly, they don't. they don't.
>> is there a way to get them to believe in it through the argument you make, carmen?
>> i am almost certain we are not going to get them to believe in it with help poor people and help poor children. it is not to say republicans don't care about poor children.
>> it is easy to turn it into welfare.
>> this language of it stimulates the economy. poor families go and spend this money ond these automatons.
>> look at what chris christie is trying to do. both cuomo in new york could ride all the way to the presidential nomination. getting at the infrastructure. let's hire people to do the work. anybody that goes to europe, they spend twice as much as we do on their infrastructure. our roads are falling apart. i had to pay the pothole tax and have my car realigned. we just had a railroad bridge collapse. our water mains are falling apart. we are going to have another johnstown flood sooner or later , more natural gas pipe explosions like the one we had in san bruno and other places.
>> i hear you. i want to be careful we don't think unemployed workers are mostly 40-year-old able bodied men with the capacity to build rhode roads.
>> it turns into $48 billion. it turns into a profit.
>> as soon as we come back, more on exactly this.