A Tip for Senator Brown on Beating the End-of-Year Blues

Dear Senator Brown:

Greetings as you head back to Washington for the final weeks of your Senate term. What with your impending life transition from Senator to private citizen (and the holiday season on top of it all) it would be entirely natural for even a happy disposition like yours to be feeling a little bluesy.

If that’s the case, medical experts agree that it often helps to find ways to assist those who are less fortunate. Repeated studies have shown that easing the hardships of others can increase a person’s feelings of joy.

So with that in mind, maybe think about the 45,000 constituents who are about to see their federal unemployment benefits end on December 29. Many of them have been unemployed for six months or more — there are still more than three unemployed workers for each job opening. The program of federal extended unemployment benefits that was started under President George W. Bush in 2008 has provided a lifeline for these struggling workers to keep their homes and sustain their families during the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. Although the rate of unemployment has been falling, it is still higher (even here in Massachusetts) than when President Bush signed the federal UI extension into law. Renewing the program now rather than letting it lapse will offer hope and will help restore a sense of economic security to the workers hit hardest by the recession and slow recovery as they continue their search for new employment.

In past debates about federal extended UI benefits, you have expressed some concern about how they would be paid for. Well, more good news! An estate tax cut that provides a tax break of more than a million dollars to the estates of the wealthiest 0.3 percent of Americans will expire at the end of the year. Allowing that tax cut to expire, which would affect only those estates with assets of more than $3.5 million, would generate more than $140 million annually from just the 140 Massachusetts estates (out of 7000 nationwide) that now benefit from it. That revenue would go a long way toward helping those Massachusetts residents who are still looking for work to continue to meet their basic needs.

Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island is organizing support for continuing federal extended UI benefits, and Senator Kerry has already signed on to his effort. Here’s hoping that you’ll continue your past support for federal extended benefits by supporting Senator Reed and using your bipartisan skills to persuade other Senate Republicans to join you. Take it from your 45,000 unemployed constituents – it would be a real “bah-humbug” buster.

(The Senator’s D.C. phone number is 202-224-4543.)

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