Bob Dylan’s America


— by Rich Dunn, NVRDC 2nd Vice Chair

This morning I was listening to Bob Dylan’s song “Like a Rolling Stone” on the radio, and was struck by the line, “When you ain’t got nothin’, you got nothin’ to lose.” That no doubt resonates with the growing number of Americans who have nothing to lose.

Exhibit A: While short term unemployment is back near its historical norm, the number out of work for 27 weeks or longer remains near historic highs. That’s why extended benefits have been renewed no less than 11 times.

That problem remains unresolved, yet extended unemployment benefits are not being renewed for a 12th time. They will expire on December 28th, leaving 1.3 million breadwinners without any bread. The effects will ripple through 2014, leaving 4.9 million job seekers without a lifeline by the end of the year.

The economic effects of those cuts will include 240,000 fewer jobs and a 0.4 percent loss of GDP, which will lower tax revenues and grow the deficit. How ironic is that? And here’s something else that’s ironic: John Boehner’s government shutdown cost the treasury $24 billion, which is exactly what renewing extended unemployment benefits for a year would have cost.

There’s more. On November 1st, SNAP benefits were cut 15% for families with not enough money for food, and in January the House will approve a farm bill with another $40 billion in SNAP cuts. That won’t just hurt food producers, processers, retailers and hungry kids, it will further reduce final demand in the economy, and yes, increase the deficit.

Now the Ryan-Murray budget deal makes permanent the sequester cuts to Head Start, Meals on Wheels, Section 8 housing assistance and shelters for the homeless. And with yet another debt limit showdown looming at the end of February, anti-government zealots in congress will have more leverage to force cuts to programs which the most vulnerable among us depend on to survive.

I can’t help but wonder what’s going to happen when all these people who have nothin’ to lose decide to do something about it. Like vote.

2014 will be an interesting year.

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