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Jim Horn: Rooney's rejection of unemployment benefits to cost Treasure Coast hundreds of millions of dollars

As Tom Rooney's 2010 Congressional opponent, I have expressed strong opposition to Mr. Rooney's vote not to extend unemployment benefits, at the very least through March. It makes no sense to me not to.

I continue to be a fiscal conservative, but we need to have a real conversation about this issue, not a politically charged one. This is not the time to play politics, especially when our region has been hit so hard economically. There are families and businesses that will be seriously affected in our area by this decision.

One of the core beliefs of a small-government fiscal conservative is that money in the hands of individuals is more efficiently spent than spending on government programs, which are notoriously loaded with waste and with few dollars impacting local economies.

Unemployment compensation, a lifesaver for many families, also is helping to prop up our local economy during this serious downturn. As proof, a Labor Department study found that every dollar spent on unemployment insurance led to at least a $2 increase in economic activity. The National Employment Law Project says that this has amounted to a $7 billion monthly boost for the economy.

The Treasure Coast Has been hit hard with unemployment, with rates of more than 15 percent. Should the benefits extension not go through, Treasure Coast business owners can expect tougher times. Rather than playing Washington party politics, Rooney should be fighting hard for this extension, given this district's high unemployment.

With an estimated 20,000 people getting benefits locally, the economic loss here will be a devastating minimum of $572 million yearly. What is Rooney thinking?

We can no sooner blame high unemployment on the unemployed than we can blame homeowners for the depreciation of their home values. Washington has failed to address theses issues; now they think to abandon those most affected by the ongoing failure of both parties to create solutions.

Some argue we create a dependent class of people with the benefits. The numbers seem to be that 20 percent are long-term unemployable, but 80 percent want to live on more than the $275 a week that unemployment pays. Let's at least get these Americans through the winter and, during the next six months, create new programs to reduce the unemployment.

I am sure that every Rooney will have a turkey on the table for Christmas. Our congressman needs to understand that real people are involved, many who will not be able to eat through the holidays, and certainly will have no Christmas turkey, without the extensions being passed.

Dave Dew, chairman of the Democratic Executive Committee of Martin County, said he was deeply disappointed that Rooney seemed uninterested in understanding or projecting the economic and social impact that will be "delivered on the Treasure Coast by such an irresponsible act."

While our federal government continues to waste hundreds of billions of dollars on Washington's well-connected, the estimated direct cost of continuing the extensions through 2011 is $65 billion. However, the actual cost when accounting for the revenue from taxes paid on wages from unemployment-supported jobs and savings on social safety services is about $25 billion, according to the Economic Policy Institute. Passing the extensions also could inject directly into local economies over $80 billion.

Wall Street bonuses this year, made possible by federal bailouts, are estimated at $105 billion. Bonuses, basically for bad business decisions and poor management, are made possible by hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars, with little if any helping local economies.

Using Washington's logic, why don't we just say this group of unemployed Americans is just too big to fail.

Contact Mr. Rooney and tell him your feelings. It seems odd he would not reason that a district with high unemployment is more in need of the extensions than most.

The Treasure Coast cannot afford to lose this federal support.

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. Martin County Democratic Executive Committee has no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of this article nor is Martin County Democratic Executive Committee endorsed or sponsored by the originator.)