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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Tuesday, December 10, 2002

Congress must not abandon unemployed

Consider this: While the 107th Congress in its final days was able to come up with a $90 billion "protection" plan for the insurance industry in the event of a new terrorist attack, it couldn't summon the energy to do something much more modest but far more critical for the nation's unemployed.

A proposal for a federally financed extension of unemployment benefits failed when lawmakers could not reach agreement.

That means a temporary extension of unemployment benefits will begin running out on Dec. 28. Some Christmas present.

There is a $25 billion federal trust fund that could be used to extend the benefits. The value of an extension is obvious: It will keep food on the table of the unemployed and money circulating in the economy as the benefits are used for necessities.

The $90 billion plan to bail out insurance companies if they are slammed by another terrorist attack has its virtues. The guarantee means construction projects will go forward and economic life will continue.

But that is theoretical. Unemployment is real. The first thing the 108th Congress should do when it reconvenes in January is to include an extension of the federal benefits program in its continuing spending resolution.