Despite President Bush's pronouncement last week that the recession is over, there are millions of Americans who know full well that it isn't -- notably the 3 million people who are still out of work and whose unemployment benefits have run out.
For them, and for many others facing benefit cutoffs soon, extended aid may be the only thing standing between them and impoverishment as they struggle to find work in a debilitated economy. Until recently, however, President Bush resisted extending unemployment benefits, vetoing or blocking two bills passed by Congress because, he said, paying for them would have "busted the budget." So it was welcome news this week when Bush and congressional leaders finally agreed on a "compromise" that provides up to 20 weeks of benefits beyond the 26 weeks already covered. (In Maryland, unemployed workers will get an extra 13.)
The key to Bush's support of the new bill, ostensibly, is that the $5.1 billion cost will be offset by closing a tax loophole, withholding tax refunds from people who have defaulted on student loans and maintaining the unemployment tax instead of allowing a scheduled drop. The deficit should not increase a penny.