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Columbia Missourian

GENE ROBERTSON: Support for unemployed important for all of us

By Gene Robertson
January 8, 2013 | 6:00 a.m. CST

The extension of unemployment benefits is an issue that we must continue to support if we don’t want to prevent many unemployed former middle-class folks from falling into the disadvantaged class.

One big reason for extending this help is that unemployment figures are still dangerously high and jobs are dangerously low in the fields where middle-class earners formerly worked.

Too many of this new unemployed class lack the coping skills to function in the new socioeconomic level they are forced to experience. The disadvantaged have been experiencing discrimination, redlining, steering, mortgage and loan fraud all of their lives and cope with it. These experiences are traumatic to newly arrived disadvantaged.

They need to be able to use the extension to invigorate their job search as well as plan and adapt to living at a new level for a longer period of time. Unemployment benefits affect a cadre of issues that surround the unemployed. Housing, food, health and education are quickly impacted. Transportation and utility use have not gone unnoticed. Self-esteem and relationship issues accompany this new status as well.

Combinations of changes in these areas can have serious legal consequences, which serve to exacerbate negative impacts in any and all areas of their lives. These are people who formerly thought they were living the American dream. Unemployment affects every facet and every relationship of the unemployed person.

Consequently, extension of unemployment benefits is a systemic solution rather than an individualistic solution. These people don’t want handouts. They want a chance to fulfill their potential just as General Motors or Wall Street needed it. If an extension of unemployment will provide some support, then we must all be willing to advocate for it whether we are unemployed or not. We are all so inextricably linked together; that what affects one of us, will soon affect all of us in some way.

It’s not just the unemployed's problem, it’s our entire problem.

William E. "Gene" Robertson is a Columbia resident and a professor emeritus at MU. Questions? Contact Opinion editor Elizabeth Conner.