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Dems To Double Aid To “Globalization Victims”

From an approving Washington Post:

Aid May Grow for Laid-Off Workers

Service Jobs Lost To Global Trade Are Focus of Bills

By Lori Montgomery
Monday, July 23, 2007; A01

As part of their campaign to soothe an anxious middle class, congressional Democrats are preparing legislation that would significantly expand federal aid to the most obvious victims of the global economy: workers whose jobs move offshore or are lost to foreign imports.

Under a Senate bill to be introduced today, computer programmers, call-center staffers and other service-sector workers who make up the vast majority of the nation’s workforce would for the first time be eligible for a generous package of income, health and retraining benefits currently reserved for manufacturing workers who lose their jobs to international trade.

Democrats say the expansion of the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program would begin to reweave the social safety net for the 21st century, as advances permit more industries to take advantage of cheap foreign labor — even for skilled, white-collar work. By providing special compensation to more of globalization’s losers and retraining them for stable jobs at home, they say, an expanded program could begin to ease the resentment and insecurity arising from the new economy.

A similar bill is nearing completion in the House, and Democrats hope to approve the expansion before the program expires Sept. 30…

The program, established as part of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962, is the nation’s primary source of aid to workers who lose their jobs to foreign competition. Laid-off manufacturing workers must demonstrate to the Labor Department that they lost their jobs because of foreign imports or a decision to shift production to a U.S. trading partner subject to a free-trade agreement.

If their applications are approved, workers can receive two years of benefits on top of state unemployment payments, which typically last six months. The benefits include income support payments, job training, job search and relocation assistance, and a tax credit that covers 65 percent of monthly health-insurance premiums. Workers over 50 who take a new job at lower pay are eligible for wage insurance, which makes up half the difference between their old salary and the new one, up to a maximum of $5,000 a year, for two years.

Last year, the Labor Department approved 1,400 petitions covering about 400,000 workers, according to a recent study by the Government Accountability Office…

Baucus’s proposal, in addition to extending benefits to service workers, would eliminate the rule that reserves benefits for jobs lost to U.S. trading partners. Help would be available for any worker whose job moves anywhere overseas

The bill also would improve some benefits while making them easier to claim. The health insurance tax credit would be increased to cover 85 percent of monthly premiums, making maintaining health coverage more affordable. And workers as young as 40 would be eligible for up to $6,000 a year in wage insurance if they accept new jobs at lower pay.

All told, the changes would double spending on the program, which cost the government just under $1 billion last year…

Last week, White House spokesman Tony Fratto declined to comment on the Democratic proposals for expansion, except to question their cost and the wisdom of covering service workers. With those job losses, he said, “it becomes impossible to draw lines that show the displacement is owing to trade.”

Some TAA advocates worry that, in this hostile atmosphere, two months is too little time to pass legislation to extend the program and double its size. Others are confident that even disgruntled Republicans will be reluctant to abandon the chief source of federal aid for victims of globalization…

Who even knew that such a program even existed — let alone that it is going to be expanded? And from the sound of it, it will be far more than doubled.

What a boondoggle this will be. Who won’t be able to claim that they have been adversely affected by the “global economy”?

It’s just more of what the Democrats do best.

Buying votes with our tax dollar.

This article was posted by Steve on Monday, July 23rd, 2007. Comments are currently closed.

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