By Robert Reich
As of today, only 1 out of every 4 jobless Americans receives unemployment benefits – even though most of these people paid payroll taxes when last employed. But Republicans don’t believe in social insurance. Also on the their hit list are the two other programs that depend on payroll taxes, Medicare and Social Security. Republicans say we can’t afford social insurance any longer but they have it backwards. At a time when more Americans than ever are economically insecure, we should be expanding social insurance, not contracting it: increasing Social Security, and financing it by lifting the cap on income subject to the Social Security payroll tax; expanding Medicare by turning it into a single-payer system for all, which would cost less than our current healthcare system; and giving every jobless American unemployment benefits, paid for by a higher corporate tax. An expanded system of social insurance would give more Americans the purchasing power to fuel the nation’s economy, thereby putting more people back to work and lifting wages. It’s common sense. But how much worse must it get before that common sense becomes common knowledge?