NEW YORK ( MainStreet) — Where are the Christmas ghosts when we need them? They might have something to say about Congress's recent decision to cut off emergency assistance for millions of jobless Americans this holiday season.

As you may know on December 28 the Emergency Unemployment Compensation Fund will expire, cutting off unemployment benefits for approximately 1.3 million people after Congressional Republicans blocked renewal of the program. The fund was created to help cushion the blow of the Great Recession by giving states money to expand their unemployment insurance programs as far out as 99 weeks; under normal conditions these programs provide benefits for only up to 26 (although the specific number varies from state to state).

Congress has annually renewed the program in the face of persistent low employment, which still hasn't recovered to anywhere near pre-crisis levels. On Saturday extended deadlines for all programs, currently between 40 and 63 weeks for most states, will drop back to the standard 26 weeks or fewer. The result will not only immediately cut off support for well over a million people, but will also impact nearly 5 million over the course of 2014 according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

For an excellent visual representation of these changes, check out this post .

By now most of us have heard the defense for this particular brand of fiscal heartlessness: it will enforce discipline among the unemployed, encouraging lazy, snack eating, Netflix addicted layabouts to get up off their couches and find a job.

"If you extend [unemployment benefits], you do a disservice to these workers," Sen. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said in an interview on Fox News. "When you allow people to be on unemployment insurance for 99 weeks, you're causing them to become a part of this perpetual unemployed group in our economy."

"You get out of a recession by encouraging employment, not encouraging unemployment," he added.


No matter that basic economics says you get out of a recession by improving demand, simple motivation can't fix unemployment. The math just doesn't work that way. Today we have three applicants for every one job opening in America, and according to the Economic Policy Institute the economy will have to create 7.9 million additional jobs just to get us back to 2007 levels of employment.

Motivation can't beat math. Encouragement isn't the problem, jobs are. By the numbers, two out of every three people who try to get work right now will fail. Making that failure more painful won't create a second opening when an employer only has one, nor will it inspire his next door neighbor to hire a superfluous person out of pity.

There are no jobs. Anyone who proposes to cut unemployment insurance needs to start by addressing the lack of employment opportunities. Public assistance doesn't cause unemployment, having no jobs does.