Try not to get laid off

Because odds are, you won’t get squat:

With no end in sight to the nation’s high unemployment, the government program to help the jobless is heading for a crash.

And with Democrats and Republicans now divided over what used to be routine extensions of unemployment insurance benefits, there’s little prospect anytime soon for the sort of costly and complex rescue that’s necessary, according to one of the program’s champions.

“I am worried,” said Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.), who got some temporary unemployment fixes in the $787 billion economic stimulus bill. “It is going to take a degree of bipartisanship … that we haven’t seen.”

The sour economy, with unemployment stuck above 9 percent for a year and a half, has been the backdrop for this fall’s midterm elections, but long-term fixes for the unemployment insurance system have hardly been a hot campaign issue.

Democratic and Republican leaders alike say that helping the unemployed is a top priority. But critics say neither side has done enough to avert the looming insolvency of the outmoded unemployment system, which reaches less than half of the jobless and yet is shuddering under $40 billion in debt.

States, which have already raised employment taxes, will be forced to cut benefits even further next year without the kind of overhaul of unemployment insurance that has always seemed to slip off the congressional agenda, according to McDermott, who’s tried for years to modernize a program that has changed little since it was created in 1935.