For many of the unemployed, their unemployment benefits are what separates them from living on the streets. As Congress debates how much money to allocate to NASA, which will soon have a grounded fleet of shuttles, and appropriates tens of billions of dollars to fight wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, endless wars that are paid for with loans and counted outside the budget, former American workers/taxpayers who helped fund NASA and bankrolled the checks of those in the military, have seen their unemployment checks suspended after various Tier exhaustions and their 99 weeks of eligibility were extinguished. But therein lies the problem. In a normal economy those same individuals who have exhausted their unemployment benefits would have been gainfully employed before their time ran out. But the economic downturn the U. S. has experienced in the past two years is not a normal economy.
It is the worst economy the nation has faced since the Great Depression. The current economic climate is so bad, some call it the Great Recession, making many wonder if it is just a question of euphemistic semantics, word games designed to work some Orwellian magic on the lumpen proletariat.
There are over a million people in the United States that have exhausted their extended unemployment benefits. There are others who have lost their benefits at the end of the regular 26 weeks, only to find no extension waiting for them. Just as with the loss of their jobs, the loss of their benefits came through no fault of their own. Like the job, the weekly unemployment check just expired. And it does not matter if the unemployed individual who lost their job lost their benefits at the end of 26, 46, or even 99 weeks — being without that additional income in a stagnant economy is what matters. Because without that income, everyone is equal under the rules of nonpayment and foreclosures, evictions and repossessions.
The plight of the unemployed — something that many members of the Senate pay lip service to but about which they seem to be rather indifferent.
That million-plus (which could rise to 2 million by mid-July) jobless and recently benefits-less will join the millions of others who have lost their jobs, weren’t eligible for unemployment, or are working one or several jobs to attempt to make ends meet. The U. S. Department of Labor estimates that there are 15 million unemployed in the U. S. Many economists believe the official number is extremely optimistic, some going so far as to say that the true number of unemployed in the U. S. is at least 30 million.
Meanwhile, millionaires in the Senate and in the House of Representatives decide whether or not they will extend unemployment benefits to the very people who filled the coffers that bankrolled their paychecks for years. And voted for them. The most egregious offenders seem to be the Republicans in the Senate, voting to the man (and woman) to filibuster legislation that would provide $35.5 billion in unemployment benefits extensions. To make matters worse, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has objected to two standalone votes for the unemployment benefits provision.
McConnell talks about the legislation adding to national debt but somehow doesn’t see that the filibuster, stonewalling, and objections only contribute to the economic downturn that will not generate revenues that only makes the economy worse — and, therefore, increases the national debt. The more Republicans delay a compromise on the unemployment benefits extensions situation, the worse it gets for millions of people, which translates to billions of dollars that aren’t being infused into the economy because Mitch McConnell and his Republican colleagues wish to prove ideological fortitude and dominance.
But there is a solution to the stonewalling…
The quickest way for the unemployed to receive benefits to help them in their time of need, besides finding gainful employment, is to threaten to fire the senators (i.e. vote them out of office). But threats aren’t enough. Come November, the threats must be carried out. This will not only show incumbents but newcomers alike that the people have gained control and the will of the people will be done — or there will be a recall on faulty senators.
And since the Republicans have decided to play obstructionist politics and the Democrats seem to lack the ability to move legislation due mainly to Republican intransigence, regardless if the measures would help many and contribute to the nation and the general welfare, the removal of a handful of Republicans should be the first step in the people regaining control of their Congress. This would give the Democrats a clear majority where they should have no problem passing legislation — legislation that follows the will of the people or at least is designed to promote the general welfare, which unemployment benefits extension legislation undoubtedly does.
And if the newly appointed Senate fails to do the will of the people, get rid of another handful or more in the next election and make Republicans the dominant party. They didn’t seem to have a problem passing deficit-expanding bills when they had control before. Or was it that they were more socially conservative?
In short, the American people, led by the disaffected unemployed and employing the power of the vote, can make the majority work for the majority.
It is what the system was designed to do before senators began spending decades in office and ignoring their constituents once they were elected. It is a system that can be made to work for the people again.
It just takes a few votes.
It is what democracy is all about…