IMO, it seems that there is some misunderstanding as to the gravity of adverse employment situation. For May 2010 (latest date for which job openings data is available), there were:
- 3.206 million job openings nationwide
- 14.973 million unemployed persons
That's just under 4.7 unemployed persons for every job opening. Even if there were a perfect skills match and every unemployed person could fill every job opening (not possible), the vast majority would remain unemployed, as there are too few job openings. Not surprisingly, 45.5% of unemployed persons have been out of work for 27 weeks or more and the mean duration of unemployment has risen to 35.2 weeks.
Given that there is no magic policy that could dramatically increase the number of job openings, it makes good policy sense to extend the unemployment benefits. Preferably cost offsets would be found, but there are much bigger programs (tax and spending) up for consideration in coming months and at the end of the year. If one wants to make an aggressive stand for fiscal responsibility, it would make far more sense to fight the budget battles over those programs. My guess is that the political courage will be lacking when those programs are under consideration. Indeed, almost all of those who filibustered against the extension voted to discard extremely modest Medicare cost-savings measures to increase reimbursements to physicians.