Congress Vote On Unemployment Benefit Extension: Says sorry, You’re On Your Own
November 19, 2010
(ChattahBox Op/Ed) – My intent today was to write about campaign finance reform and its necessity, but I am having to push that critical issue aside because I am red hot mad with the House of Representatives this morning and I cannot begin to understand why a vote yesterday extending the unemployment benefit for millions of Americans out of work that did not pass is the beginning of the end of not just a slow moving economy, but how that vote will further obliterate any small gains in employment, period.
The vote to extend the unemployment benefits until February 28, 2011 lost by the tally of 258-154 and with 275 votes needed for passage it is beyond any likelihood that the extension will pass if there is any effort to put it back before the House before they leave for the holidays. As of November 30, 2010 the four million Americans who have been receiving these critical benefits will lose them.
The total cost of the bill is estimated $12.5 billion and with all due respect to those who are gainfully employed or those who only look at numbers and not at people, yesterday’s vote was the final nail in the economic coffin and will begin the process of crashing the fragile recovery just as it is gaining momentum.
Our economy is in the toilet because of George W. Bush and a Republican controlled Congress that for eight years took any responsible Clinton policy and dismantled it. George W. Bush screwed this country over time and time again funding a massive government expansion and forced Democrats to fund a war that we are still funding with our tax dollars. The Bush tax cuts, which will to be the topic of the day inside the Beltway today, have taken more billions of dollars out of the tax rolls, and the rules and regulations that govern the wealthiest Americans still favor them as middle class America continues to shrink and dwindle.
Here are some hard facts and this is what really gets me so freaking hot I can barely stand it. Every unemployment check that is issued is immediately used for goods and staples in the households where the checks are delivered to. Every penny of that unemployment money is crucial to that home. Every person receiving an unemployment check has just been told through this vote that forget about Christmas and feeding your family, politics are more important than your survival. And let me make this crystal clear, that unemployment check is about survival and nothing else.
In the 1970’s we saw a horrendous economy hit this country hard. The average unemployed workers were afforded an opportunity to claim unemployment for an average of 65 weeks. In this economy, we are now seeing benefits being offered up to 99 weeks, and the reason for that is simple. There are not enough jobs for those seeking employment and it’s not getting better quickly enough and if you are going to tell me that we can’t just keep giving people this money infinitely, you may be wrong, very wrong.
I realize that the unemployment tab is high and that after the 26 weeks paid for by the state and then extension paid for by the federal government is staggering, it is also a dramatic reminder that America is suffering its worse ever job draught.
Worse yet, those that are receiving unemployment benefits are receiving but a small percentage of what their take home pay was before being let go by their employers. And the idea that by continuing to provide unemployment benefits people are delaying their job search is ludicrous. Ok, sure some people are taking advantage, but what percentage really? According to the Department of Labor Statistics there are now more than 6.2 million long-term unemployed, defined as people out of work for more than 6 months. The national unemployment rate currently stands at 9.6% and after we lose some seasonal jobs after the first of the year that number is guaranteed to increase once more.
Furthermore, a report by the Joint Economic Committee, a House-Senate panel said that ending the extended unemployment program will take $80 billion out of the economy and will be the cause of a loss of another 1 million jobs.
There is reality and then there is politics and they never really coexist well. This morning millions of American families will not have a Christmas this year. Millions of American families will now have to decide how to buy groceries. Millions of Americans are panicking this morning to try to figure out how to make the house payment or how to buy needed medicine. Millions of Americans are scared to death this morning because the lives they have worked so hard to attain to begin with are being further torn away from them and there is nothing they can do to stop it from happening.
Congress is forcing people into a downward spiral and pushing more people into assistance programs that are just about bankrupt as well. Avenues for relief are vanishing as more and more people have to turn to community food pantries to put basic staples in their homes. Foreclosures, already at record highs will continue to escalate. Divorce rates will continue to climb, and your elected member of Congress is an accomplice to the degradation of the American way of life.
Yeah, I’m pissed off this morning and my heart aches for the men and women who have been shamed by their country and who are seen not as the infrastructure that has built this country, but as a number with a price tag we cannot afford anymore.
So for those of you who will take the position that we just can’t keep adding to the debt and we cannot enable the unemployed, sleep well knowing that as the heating bill increases and as the cost of living increases and as the number of living wage jobs decreases, you are personally doing OK, and as long as you’re good well, that’s good enough for you, because, hey, if you’re OK then we’re all OK, right?
My political instincts tell me that what the Republicans will do is say that they will pass an extension of unemployment benefits if the Democrats agree to extend the Bush tax cuts that they covet, and that probably is what will happen. But I guess being the liberal guy that I am I just want people to have a chance to breathe while they figure out how to regain their lives and at the same time help to put food on the table, if they haven’t sold the table yet to pay the heating bill.
Tony Trupiano is a former national syndicated progressive radio talk show host, author, and a former candidate for Congress. He is also a nationally recognized media trainer. He can be reached at email@example.com and can read his Blog at www.mediatraining.me.