Christmas is coming and people around the world are making plans to celebrate. But in the world’s richest country there are a million families who will lose the money they depend on for groceries – unless Congress steps in to help them. These are the long-term unemployed, jobless for six months or more, whose benefits are scheduled to end during the holiday season.
Congress traditionally gives a few extra weeks of federal unemployment benefits to workers who use up the standard six months of state jobless compensation. But this Congress is far from traditional.
The House of Representatives fell into the hands of radical extremists during the Tea Party revolution of 2010, and despite Democratic gains last year, remains locked in their grim embrace. Meanwhile, their allies in the Senate have abused the filibuster to block President Obama’s agenda.
The consequences have been horrendous.
These latter-day Grinches are dedicated to the destruction of the federal government and are prepared to inflict any amount of misery on the American people in their scorched-earth campaign. They have succeeded in hobbling the nation’s recovery from the disaster left behind by the Bush presidency and seem dedicated to reversing the gains made by American society in the past century.
Using the national debt as the pretext for their savagery, and backed by powerful interests intent on trampling American workers into total submission, they have pursued the most socially and economically destructive policies since the presidency of James Buchanan (1857–1861).
Slashing food stamps, sabotaging health care reform, squeezing Social Security, undermining Medicare and Medicaid… their assault on the most vulnerable members of society is relentless.
Extension of unemployment benefits into 2014 would cost about $30 billion, and you can bet the fiscal hawks will point to the annual deficit in alarm and claim the country cannot possibly afford it.
There’s a bitter irony in this argument. By insisting on extreme belt tightening, the economic radicals have stunted the country’s growth, and they are using this lack of growth to justify further belt tightening.
They persistently block the president’s attempts to create jobs, and then they accuse the Americans who cannot find jobs of being a shiftless pack of layabouts who would rather subsist on government handouts than work for a living.
The jobs that have emerged during this period of austerity pay anemic wages, forcing many of those who do find work to rely on government subsidies. Yet, in the same breath, the radicals in Congress fight proposals for a federal minimum wage and attack the programs that provide subsidies to the underpaid.
Meanwhile, the richest Americans grow richer. Stock markets continue to set records and the financial elite skim millions off the top as they manipulate the national economic system in mysterious – and injurious – ways.
I am bewildered by the American public’s meek acceptance of this kind of naked oppression, and I marvel at the fact that Republican candidates get any votes at all from working people.
I can only assume that the general public has been so distracted by wedge issues like abortion, women’s rights, racism and sexual orientation that the deliberate depradation of the economy goes unnoticed.
Meanwhile, a beleaguered president and his Democratic allies in Congress are fighting to protect the victims of this perverted system. President Obama is “insisting” that the expiring unemployment benefits be extended, for instance.
According to a report in the Huffington Post:
Budget negotiators have been meeting to try and hammer out a deal to keep the federal government running when funding expires in mid-January. And in an interview with The Washington Post, one of those members, Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) said that an extension of unemployment benefits would be a chief request for the Democrats. But those benefits expire before any new government funding agreement is likely to be reached, making it more imperative for Congress to act on a stand-alone measure.
I will be pleasantly surprised if the Republicans in Congress heed the President’s pleas, and I’m sure that if they do grant his request for an extension of unemployment benefits it will be at a price so severe the nation will be left reeling once again on its downward spiral.