This week, the Senate, or more specifically, Senate Republicans, had two opportunities to show that their wing of the legislative body had a heart as opposed to a gold-encrusted ice box full of IOUs to their corporate sugar daddies. Both opportunities were measures to extend unemployment benefits. Given a reported 1.3 million workers lost their jobless benefits on Dec. 28th following the the expiration of an emergency program to help the unemployed, one might hope that there’d be some level of concern to help those who need it most and to vote accordingly.
Neither bill presented received the 60 votes necessary to overcome a filibuster to move forward, thus Republicans once again took out their stick and chased poor folks off their lawns for daring to ask for rations to do little things like eat and have a place to live, following the economic conditions largely rooted in awful Republican policy that got them there in the first place.
Republicans say that they have their reasons for not passing the bills, i.e. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) refusing to let them offer amendments, but that is a crock.The fact is, they don’t care about the plight of the unemployed and the long term unemployed. If they did, petty squabbles over political semantics would’ve been cast aside for the greater good. Or better yet, for common decency.
All of this comes at a time in which long-term unemployment is as high as it’s ever been since World Word II; there have been 4 million people who have been out of work for 27 weeks or longer. As the Washington Post points out, when you find yourself out of work for such an extended period of time, you “have just a 12 percent chance of finding a new job in a given month.”
Emergency benefits are an essential source of income for these people suffering, but again, Republicans in Congress give not a single damn about their plight.
On the second vote on Thursday, which failed 58 to 40, Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) said, ”Because of the inaction of one person today there’s a family, thousands of families who are going to miss mortgage payments and send their lives into economic chaos.”
For the record, while the unemployment rate overall dropped to 6.5 percent, Black unemployment rose from 11.5 to 12 percent. More, Black teen unemployment rose from 35.5 to 38 percent.
Of course, we know exactly how to aid those in need and provide an overall boost to the economy.
The Atlantic’s Derek Thompson explains:
In a market failure like this, only Washington can intervene—through stimulus, through direct hiring, or through clever incentives. That’s not some hippy-dippy conclusion. Plenty of conservatives and Republicans agree, including Michael Strain at AEI and Sen. John Thune who teamed up to propose a plan that would give businesses a six-month payroll-tax holiday for each long-term jobless worker they hired and give the workers special loans to move to areas with lower unemployment. Strain’s colleague at AEI, Kevin Hassett, has repeatedly argued that government should hire these workers directly.
“It could all be so simple, but you’d rather make it hard.” Yes, I’m quoting Lauryn Hill, because I can’t quote the songs with much harsher sentiments in this space.
However, I will say, Republicans like Rand Paul prove to be as ignorant as a one-hour-old baby, when he speaks as if unemployment benefits are nothing more than a crutch for the lazy unemployed folks to not want to seek out work. When people who actually know of what they speak of are talking, why not muzzle yourself and listen? Why do I still have to ask this about people elected to know better?
To that point, while it is unlikely that Democrats can wrestle away control of the House from Republicans (and there is a strong challenge to keep the Senate), they still see 2014 with an eye of opportunity. They have to, because at this point, we have Elmer Fudd, Gordon Gekko, Scrooge McDuck, and pre-ghost visitation Ebenezer Scrooge soiling the nation with their bad governing and politics. No one else can afford for this to go on much longer.
Michael Arceneaux is from the land of Beyoncé, but now lives in the city of Master Splinters. Follow him at @youngsinick.