The only thing we have to fear is … heartless Republicans
The U.S. Senate has passed legislation that would extend unemployment benefits for 1.3 million Americans who saw it run out due to Congressional inaction in December of 2013. The bill extends the Emergency Unemployment Compensation program which provides additional weeks of benefits after state-based unemployment benefits come to an end.
It’s a smart move, one which avoids a nearly $30 billion hit to consumer spending (and our economy) and, more importantly, it’s a move that provides a vital lifeline to families who are hurting.
The big issue now is the U.S. House of Representatives. The argument made by the Republicans who control things there is that, as Rand Paul puts it, unemployment insurance does a “disservice” to the unemployed. You keep paying these people all that sweet, sweet free government cash and they won’t look for a job.
President Obama had a little something to say about that on Monday:
Now, I’ve heard the argument that says extending unemployment insurance will somehow hurt the unemployed because it zaps their motivation to get a new job. I really want to go at this for a second. (Pause for laughter and applause.) That really sells the American people short. I meet a lot of people as President of the United States, and as a candidate for President of the United States, and as a U.S. Senator, and as a State Senator — I meet a lot of people. And I can’t name a time where I met an American who would rather have an unemployment check than the pride of having a job. (Applause.)
The long-term unemployed are not lazy. They’re not lacking in motivation. They’re coping with the aftermath of the worst economic crisis in generations. In some cases, they may have a skills mismatch. They may have been doing a certain job for 20 years; suddenly they lose that job. They may be an older worker, may have to get retrained. It’s hard — sometimes employers will discriminate if you’ve been out of work for a while; they decide, well, we’re not sure we want to hire you, we’d rather hire somebody who’s still working right now.
So it’s hard out there. There are a lot of our friends, a lot of our neighbors who have lost their jobs and they’re working their tails off every single day trying to find a new job. Now, as the job market keeps getting better, more and more of these folks will find work. But, in the meantime, the insurance keeps them from falling off a cliff. It makes sure they can pay their car note to go to that interview. It makes sure they can pay their cell phone bills so that if somebody calls back for an interview, they can answer it. (Laughter.)
And Katherine explained this. Katherine, in the letter that she wrote to me, said, do folks really think that “cutting this benefit will make someone hire me?” I mean, that’s not how employers are thinking.
He has it exactly right. Unemployed Americans aren’t suddenly more employable if they don’t receive an unemployment check to help get them through their time without work. The fact is there are nearly three people looking for a job for every job available. Cutting off unemployment benefits doesn’t change that except to possibly make matter worse by pulling that money out of the economy.
Never in history have we cut off people from unemployment when the unemployment rate was this high.
This afternoon, I called my Republican Congressman Tim Walberg’s office in Washington, D.C. and asked if he would support extending unemployment benefits if, by some miracle, Speaker John Boehner allows a vote. The cheerful young woman who answered the phone couldn’t tell me if he’s taken a position. Based on his history of voting against increasing the minimum wage and a general disdain for helping out our country’s most hard-hit groups, I’m guessing he’ll toe the party line and vote against it. Likely it’s a moot point considering that John Boehner has no intention of allowing for a vote.
Walberg has a rather shocking opinion about our government. He fears it, believes others should fear it, and sees it as an “aristocracy” even as he uses his power to ensure those at the bottom of the economic ladder stay there.
In December last year Walberg held a teleconference where he made these statements. The entire call be heard HERE. I have clipped out a section that starts at the 32:06 minute mark:
Here’s the transcript. The conversation picks up after a question from one of his supporters about “the Benghazi scandal”.
WALBERG: I sat across the table from several of the family members and parents of the fallen in Benghazi and I gave them my promise that I would not give up in trying to get to the bottom and find those that were responsible, that ultimately caused the loss of their family members’ lives and we will keep at that.
CALLER: Because the fallout of those scandals, even though we’re greatest country in the land, that just erode the character of the Americans. It’s a very sad situation.
WALBERG: And the trust in the government and we should always…
CALLER: People trust the government?
WALBERG: In days gone by they used to.
WALBERG: We’d like to get back to that. People ought, in the United States ought to be able to trust, in general, their government. You know, I tell people, I fear my government, and we always ought to.
[Boilerplate blah blah about reading the Constitution and learning its “elegant simplicity”. Also: freedom.]
Right now we are seeing an aristocracy develop. And that isn’t only in this administration. It’s ramped up. But, where we have the ruling class and the rest of us. And that’s not the way Washington and Jefferson and Madison and Adams and the others designed it to be.
As one person I know put it, “A guy who opposes raising the minimum wage is worried about the aristocracy?”
Walberg’s likely Democratic opponent for his Congressional seat is Pam Byrnes. She has called on Walberg to vote in support of extending unemployment benefits saying, “This broken Congress has once again hurt Michigan’s working families and our economy overall by failing to do its job and extend unemployment insurance by the year-end deadline. I’m calling on Congressman Tim Walberg to support restoring these crucial benefits. Having been a single mom I know what it’s like for families that struggle to make ends meet. Our economy is just getting up and running again. We need to be focused on creating jobs, not pulling the rug out from under middle class families.”
I suppose there’s some hope. Republican Senate candidate Terri Lynn Land remained completely silent on the issue until, in an act of outright
courage pandering, she voiced her support for extending unemployment benefits right before passage in the Senate was all but certain. She decried the act as another example of “governing by crisis”, an ironic statement given that her Party controls Congress and has done nothing to promote job growth, instead spending their time trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act and shutting down the government, both actions Ms. Land herself supported.
Government may be scary at times and may even seem to govern for the benefit of the rich and not everyday people like you and me. But for Congressman Walberg to suggest that people like him are the ones who should be afraid boggles the mind. It is, in fact, people like him we should fear most. They are the ones who are so tied to their extremist tea party ideology that they have no compassion for people without jobs, without adequate pay, without affordable health care, or without the means to better themselves.
In the world that Walberg and his tea party brethren live in, if you are on hard times, it’s your own fault, you made poor decisions, and you should not expect a helping hand from society, at least not while they are in control.
And THAT, I would suggest, is what aristocracy looks like.