Millions of jobless Americans will soon be left without benefits
Current Event Article Choices
Due Date: November 19, 2010
Article #1: From USA Today, November 11, 2010.
Unions tell pilots to avoid body scanners at airports
By Alan Levin, USA TODAY
Pilot unions at two of the nation's largest airlines are advising their members not to
submit to body scanners at airport security checkpoints as tension grows over what they
see as intrusive or risky checks.
Unions representing pilots at American Airlines and US Airways have advised their more
than 14,000 members to avoid the scanners, which peer beneath clothing, and instead get
a pat down from Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers.
That has created additional problems as some pilots have complained that the hand
searches, which were altered by TSA starting Nov. 1, are invasive. One US Airways pilot
said he felt as though he had been "sexually molested" by the pat down, said Mike
Cleary, president of the US Airline Pilots Association.
"Our members are just absolutely outraged," Cleary said.
David Bates, president of American's Allied Pilots Association, said the TSA hand search
is "a demeaning experience," but he also is urging his members to avoid the scanners.
The unions have told members to ask that the pat downs be done in private.
The unions argue that the machines are "intrusive" and that they could emit dangerous
radiation. A recent Food and Drug Administration review found that the radiation level
was so low — some machines emit no radiation — that it posed no health threat.
The nation's largest pilot's union, the Air Line Pilots Association, is working with the
TSA to find alternative screening methods but has not told members to avoid the
scanners, President John Prater said.
The controversy is the latest flare-up in a long battle by pilots to streamline or eliminate
the screening they receive. They argue that if they receive background checks, they
should be able to enter the airport without undergoing security checks.
The TSA has tested such a program, but it is currently not funded. Prater says he is
calling on airline CEOs and the government to pay for it.
Not all security experts support giving pilots or other airline employees special
dispensation at security checkpoints.
The TSA issued a statement saying its security measures must consider "our enemy is
creative and willing to go to great lengths to evade detection." TSA Administrator John
Pistole has been reviewing security policies since taking office recently and is discussing
alternatives with pilots, the statement said.
Article #2: From The Economist (economist.com) November 11, 2010 (No Author)
Millions of jobless Americans will soon be left without
AFTER a summer of idling, America’s job-creation machine spluttered back into life in
October. The economy added 151,000 jobs last month, its best performance since May.
Private job growth rose even more, by 159,000, compensating for a continued decline in
government payrolls. But the October surge was not enough to bring down America’s
9.6% unemployment rate. As a result, it looks as though severe joblessness will outlive
the programmes intended to address it.
America’s recession, a post-war record in terms of length and depth, has left the country
with unprecedented long-term unemployment. In October 6.2m people were listed as
having been out of work for more than six months, and the average duration of
unemployment now stands at 34 weeks, well above the previous post-war record of 20.5
weeks. Government unemployment benefits keep up living standards among the jobless,
and so help stabilise a weak economy by bolstering consumer demand. But America’s
unemployment-insurance system can no longer cope with a problem of this size.
Benefits normally last for just six months. When unemployment is high, extended
benefits kick in, adding an additional 13 to 20 weeks of benefits, varying by state. During
recessions the federal government will often go further. Thus in June 2008 Congress
authorised a big package of emergency benefits, which now cover workers in 27 hard-hit
states (those with unemployment rates above 8%) for up to 99 weeks. In the wake of a
“normal” recession, that would be more than enough time for workers to find new jobs.
This one has not been normal.
The economy is still running 7.5m jobs short of its previous peak. A growing number of
people are exhausting their unemployment benefits without finding new work. The
problem will worsen sharply this winter, as the bulge of 5m workers who lost their jobs
in the months after the financial meltdown of autumn 2008 notch up 99 weeks of
unemployment. And in April, the emergency benefits all expire anyway. Congress has
debated but failed to address the challenge posed by “the 99ers”. Republicans blocked in
September the last serious effort to add a new tier of benefits beyond 99 weeks.
Congress has been required regularly to reauthorise even the existing extra benefits and,
with each renewal, passage has been harder. In February Jim Bunning, a Republican
senator from Kentucky, forced a delay to the renewal. When the deadline next came up,
in early June, Congress at first failed to reapprove the programme, leaving 2.5m people
without benefits for a time. Yet another showdown looms at the end of this month.
Democrats may try to squeeze through a reauthorisation of the benefits in the “lame-
duck” session between now and the end of the year, but Republicans, flushed from
November’s electoral victories, are unlikely to give their support. Time is short, and other
priorities, such as extending George Bush’s tax cuts, may come first. Republicans argue
that benefits discourage people from seeking work, although economists at the Federal
Reserve attribute less than one percentage point of the unemployment rate to this effect.
Meanwhile, the National Employment Law Project estimates that 2m workers may lose
their benefits by the end of the year. The total could rise to 4m by the end of April, when
the existing emergency benefits programme expires and those still enrolled in it face the
termination of their benefits. That will be bad for the economy, as well as the
unemployed. Those without jobs or benefits may not show up on the monthly
unemployment count: but they still suffer, and still spend a lot less.