Sequester cuts get real for unemployed Americans

The sequester will mean cuts to the unemployment checks people depend on to pay bills.

One reason House Republicans might not feel a sense of urgency about budget cuts that start today? They're kind of abstract. No set timeline. No clear definition of who gets hit.

So you can kind of understand that, right?

Richard Crowe most definitely does not. He's a steelworker -- or, he was, until he was laid off nine months ago. He's collected unemployment since. And federal unemployment is one of the programs being cut because of the budget cuts.

Crowe isn't quite sure what will happen come Monday, or in the following weeks. His check is expected to get smaller by about 10 percent. That's cutting a good $76 out of the $764 he receives from unemployment every two weeks. "It isn't enough to begin with, and then you're losing money on top of it. It ain't good.  I struggle to pay bills now."

His wife works, but doesn't make a living wage. His Plan B? Crowe continues his job search. He says he's applied for over 200 at this point, but hasn't had much luck.

Crowe says he's not happy with Congressmembers from either party. "I worked my whole life. I don't want to be on unemployment. But I don't think the 535 people, any of them care about you."

About the author

Kai Ryssdal is the host and senior editor of Marketplace, public radio’s program on business and the economy.
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we've got a new economy going on here and failure to realize this will only make things worse for the unemployed. I've been been let go three times in the past 3.5 years and I have experience and skills in internet protocol analysis, telecommunications and mobile security. so, if anyone wants to cut money to programs to re-educate the workforce, you're going to be staring at another big recession as the middle class will have less income to shop for goods (cuz they won't have a job). it's a poor time for politics from either side. congress needs to get a budget completed. if they can't get it done, they all should be fired (and have their pensions, unemployment and health care rescinded). they should feel the pain we do.

Amen, brother hiber.nation. I recently heard a congressman give some abuses, hopefully all accurate, including that fed funds were paying for the travel expenses of the alabama watermelon queen. On the revenue side, think the "carried interest" capital gain treatment of hedge fund managers is the most egregious loophole i'm aware of. But throw out the second home mortg deduction too.

Marketplace did not present the finer details of this "process" that trace way back to many rounds of attempts to get spending/income in line with reality - remember the the farcical deficit-reduction supercommittee chaired by none other than Sen. Patty Murray of all people - not even an inch of reasonable compromise was every coming out of her. The R's need to give on some revenue and spending needs to be cut even more - these are not even close to draconian cuts!

Let's try this:
everyone that pays taxes pays 3% more
get rid of a huge batch of deductions (2nd homes, some "business" expenses, etc)
every department of the Fed gov't gets cut 3% across the board

You're assuming that the deficit actually needs to be addressed. It's already shrinking because the economy is healing and people are returning to work. The automatic stabilizers are becoming less necessary and expensive, and revenues are increasing.

Many of these cuts are counterproductive and won't even yield half of what is cut. Is it the time to even worry about long term deficits? Didn't we learn this during the last depression, when we implemented austerity too early and caused the "recession within the depression"?

I am one of these people who be affected and I am very upset about it. My monthly check $760 and I am 62 years old. This could mean homelessness for me.

I am extremely disappointed in your assertion that House Republicans are completely to blame for this mess. If Bill Clinton could work with Newt Gingrich, Obama should be able to work with John Boehner, who came to him several times with deals that could have given the President everything he wanted, but he got greedy, demagogued and denigrated Republicans in the House & Senate along with Congressional Democratic leadership. It is endemic of a President that has no concept on how to grow an economy and cares only about expanding his political power and silencing his critics.

I do feel sorry for those who have/will lost/lose jobs, houses, security, and wish Kai did too (per my orig post), but sure wish clcalliari, paulheckbert and all other dreamers would realize that the fed govt is not the ans. Unfortunately, while we slept and our elected officials only focused on re-election, they spent all our money and ran up all the credit cards they could get. Now, just like Harry Homeowner who did the same thing, there are no viable options. While we should be empathetic and help locally as best we can, the feds have no money to help and shouldn't borrow even if there are some loan sharks willing to make us a payday loan for now - then break our kneecaps later when we cannot afford to repay. The jobs being lost were created by a false economy created by bubblicious wall street bankers, incompetent regulators, and politicians who couldn't see beyond a yr or two. Picture parents whowould help you but can't because they are are struggling to cover their own expenses. For those still standing, sure hope you heed the signs so don't spend your income as if it will always be there. Be savers not spenders.

Mr. Crowe is spot-on! The campaigns of the 535 were paid for by the 1% and, regardless of who/how many of the 99% voted for them, the 1% is who they represent. Why the 99% tolerate it is beyond me (because, corruption/social nepotism aside, we do, as a nation have the fail-safe ability to replace them ALL at will...though, of course, we never will because we lack the will). Anyone who blames the President, whoever he is (rabid anti-Bush II, moi) for corruption/missteps in the economy, has not read/re-read the US Constitution. Congress holds the pursestrings. Anyone who can't see that the 535, and their state counterparts, are recreating, with increasing speed, a Feudalist economy, while maintaining membership in the most powerful (and BTW 3rd party-funded, i.e., by the American people) union in US history, must never have looked up the word "hypocrisy." And, yes, i get that Kai, income-wise, probably falls into the 1%. Still, i find Marketplace fairly balanced, re: the topics it chooses to explore (what it chooses not to, however, is also telling and, on that score, i find the program somewhat less balanced).

Thank you for this interview, Kai. A rare note of realism!

Ryssdal's coverage of the sequester has been otherwise dismissive, all week. If the question were put plainly: "should the federal government reduce the GDP by .5 to 1 point this year by cutting the budgets of thousands of programs in a blind fashion?", there's no way the response would be "Yeah, that's OK; whatever", but that's how Marketplace is reporting it. Marketplace demonstrates how out-of-touch it is with the lives of real people by shrugging off the sequester as if it doesn't matter. By allowing the sequester to begin, Congress is weakening the reputation of our country, worldwide. Congress is using up precious time that could be spent on productive legislation to fix real problems. And they are hurting thousands and perhaps millions of people who are attempting to claw their way out of the worst depression in this country in 70 years.

Marketplace could show more initiative in objectively reporting the seriousness of the situation and the folly of cutting government spending at a time of near-zero interest rates and underemployment, or it could continue on its current trajectory, and simply echo the conventional wisdom of Wall Street, focusing on the daily ups and downs of the Dow, and parroting austerity ideology, while missing the bigger story. Now, let's do the numbers…

Please tell Mr. Crowe that I care that he is unemployed and that his unemployment benefits will probably be cut. I care a great deal. I think it is tragic that the leaders of this country can not see the effect of their actions on Americans like Mr. Crowe who has worked hard his entire life and would certainly rather be working than depending on politicians who can not stop spouting talking points and do their job. I am sure that there are other Americans who care and wish that members of the Senate and House of Representatives would get over themselves and get to work.


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