The internet is ablaze with anger at Congress, especially the Senate, for its treatment of the unemployed and the 2010 Unemployment Extensions Bill (part of the American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes Act of 2010) — namely delaying the vote and debating the issue of the jobless and whether or not to extend unemployment benefits until November. Many, like those listed by USMoneyTalk.com, are calling for a united front of the unemployed to band together (“we jobless band of brothers”) and oust the senators and representatives who either voted against, will continue to vote against, or do nothing to alleviate (even in the minimal form of unemployment benefits) what appears to be a growing crisis among the long-term unemployed. But the question is, even if the unemployed were to become a formidable voting bloc of 15 million or more strong (the current number of estimated jobless in the U. S.), could they maintain a cohesive front come the November elections?
The unemployed are angry as hell and in a “I’m not going to take it anymore” frame of mind at present, but could they sustain such an attitude all the way through to November? Although many are calling for just such a union of common focus among the unemployed, could they produce a commonality of purpose that crosses party lines to oust the offending representative or senator? Would there be extenuating circumstances that might come into play along the way to distract the now angry citizen? And would they even vote when the time came?
Anger is a fickle thing, engendered by many variables and kept extant by constant reinforcement of the original angering stimulus and/or a continuing series of different anger-producing stimuli. At present, many of the unemployed, those that have already lost their unemployment benefits due to loss of eligibility or those that are nearing the point of ineligibility, are angry. They are most angry at the U. S. Senate for not passing an extension to unemployment benefits that would take the beleaguered jobless through to November (hardly a coincidence) before another extension would be necessary. Some are angry at the Democrats for not passing Senator John Thune’s (R-SD) alternate “Tax Extender” bill. Some are angry that the Republicans are paying lip service to the national deficit while stonewalling to the man (all Republicans voted against cloture on Thursday, mounting a filibuster) the Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) version of the unemployment extension bill. Most are furious that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) could not come to some agreement to get the unemployment extension provision on the Senate floor on Friday for a standalone vote.
While the U. S. Senate has been readying various versions of the bill for a final vote throughout May and June, the U. S. Department of Labor reported that the number of unemployed receiving benefits was nearly ten million. Although several tens of thousands would no doubt leave that roll by gaining employment, that number or possibly far more would join the unemployment rolls in June. But the number of unemployed who had reached the end of their benefits eligibility would reach 1.2 million by the first week of July. Bureau of Labor statistics places the total number of people unemployed at an estimated 15 million. Many believe that the estimated 9.7% unemployment rate is inadequate and is closer to 15% (with some going as high as 22%).
But is the anger sustainable? Can unemployed voters unite in their common anger long enough to oust a particular politician? Politicians depend heavily on the short-term memory of their constituents and the fickleness of the media to keep them in office. The angry voter today could be the mollified voter of tomorrow. By the time November elections can be held, an extension package may have been already passed or the voter could have become gainfully employed, alleviating much of the initial anger. Then there is the loyal party voter who might think twice before voting against their party’s choice, especially if the incumbent is a member of the party of which they are affiliated. Anger might go a long way, but allowing the rival party to gain an upper hand might be too much for the voter to contemplate come time to vote.
And then there are those who maintain a tradition of not voting. Will their anger be strong enough to propel them through to November and see them actually carry out their threat?
Regardless, there could be as many as 20 million unemployed by November, constituting a formidable voting bloc that could drastically alter the make-up of the Congress in January 2011. Sustainable anger or no, it would be in the unemployed’s best interest to at least present a united front to politicians to force the passage of a version of the 2010 Unemployment Extension Bill.