NY Times Accuses Maria Cantwell of Protecting Rich Investors at the Expense of the Unemployed

Maria Cantwell has received a lot of glowing press for her work on the environment and bank regulation. But this week the New York Times came down on her hard for trying to protect a tax break for high-earning venture capitalists and private equity fund managers while an urgently-needed unemployment benefits extension bill lingers in the Senate.

The Senate is debating a bill that allows people who have lost their job to continue receiving up to 99 weeks of unemployment benefits. In this state someone who loses their job used to get only 46 weeks of pay from the government. But two years ago, at the height of the recession, Congress added the additional 53 weeks and provided the money to pay for it. The additional time expired at the end of last month.

Last week DW reported that if the bill doesn't pass the Senate, the state Employment Security Division estimates that by the end of this year 186,000 Washingtonians may find themselves without any source of income whatsoever to cover rent, clothes and other expenses. According to the Times, 325,000 people nationwide have already been kicked off unemployment since the extension expired.

Here's the rub. Included in the unemployment bill is a provision that shrinks a tax break for successful investors. According to the Times, those protected investors pay at most 15 percent of their earnings, rather than the 35 percent currently levied against other wealthy citizens. Cantwell is one of a few Senate Democrats who has been trying to protect that tax break.

"Desperately needed unemployment benefits have been held hostage to a tax break for the rich," the Times declares.

Cantwell spokesperson John Diamond says by e-mail that the Senator has every intention of voting for the unemployment bill when it hits the Senate floor, possibly tomorrow. But she does worry that raising taxes on people who fund new business ventures "will actually hurt Main Street by curtailing venture capital and real estate investment."

"At the end of the day, Senator Cantwell looks forward to supporting legislation that helps the unemployed while they look for work AND increases the chances that there will be a job for them to find," Diamond says.

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