Congress Turns to Jobs and Finds a Frustrated Public

BY Dante Chinni  March 1, 2010 at 12:39 PM EST

It is hard to find a place in America where times are not harder than they were last year.

95945012_utility_small_horizontal.jpgAcross all of the 12 community types in Patchwork Nation, unemployment has spiked dramatically in the last year. Tensions are high. And long-term unemployment is creating a very angry electorate.

In nine of the 12 community types, the number of unemployed climbed by more than 30 percent between December 2008 and December 2009.

On average, the number of unemployed climbed by some 34 percent. And people in our Patchwork Nation communities tell us that long-term unemployment is a very real problem being experienced up close and personal. Those issues are about to enter the political fray in a very real way as Congress turns its attention to jobs measures this week.

On Sunday, the unemployment benefits for more than 1 million Americans ran out as Sen. Jim Bunning, a Kentucky Republican, halted an extension in benefits over a question about how it would be paid for. The stop is likely to be short-lived – Senate Republican leaders say they believe a “temporary extension” will pass this week – but Senator Bunning’s move was only the first step in a coming fight.

The fate of longer-term Washington measures aimed at helping cut unemployment is unclear. Some Republicans say any new jobs measures should be covered by “pay-go” – a measure requiring any new spending in bills to be offset by spending cuts or revenue increases. Others want Congress to begin to address cutting the estate tax.

The coming weeks’ discussions over these measures may play a critical role in the 2010 midterm elections as two big issues go head-to-head: controlling the deficit and helping alleviate economic pain.

Continue reading this post about the impact of long-term unemployment in Patchwork communities here.