Just taking a random sampling of blogs and the comments on the many articles on the Internet concerning the failure of Congress to come to a compromise and pass the 2010 Unemployment Extension bill (the American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes Act of 2010) shows one thing in particular — open anger in Congress. Although there are a few blogs and comment-posters that post a cynical, callous, and/or indifferent word toward the unemployed, a great majority of the posters are among the unemployed. Some, as USMoneyTalk.com reports, are calling for a united front, a combined action to get Congress to move on the unemployment extension bill to help the struggling former workers who are currently jobless, most in dire financial straits by the combined crushing effect of being without a job and/or not being able to find work in a sluggish economy.
Many of our politicians are quick to quote the Founding Fathers when talking about whatever they’re promoting at the time. In the case of the unemployed, Ben Franklin’s motto for the coming together of the individual colonies against a tyrannical and arrogant England might be most appropriate. Franklin told his fellow colonists, “Unite or die!” And, although the latter part of the rallying motto might seem a bit drastic in the case of joblessness and gaining an extension on unemployment benefits, there is little doubt that many of the unemployed, those verging on being homeless, those forced to live on the largesse of others, and those who are actually homeless due to the inability to find work, are definitely seeing their former ways of life put to death.
And, the numbers of the jobless and assistance-less unemployed continue to rise. The U. S. Department of Labor sees the number of unemployed remaining stable or rising. May showed a slight decrease in the overall number of unemployed, but that was due to the 411,000 who were temporarily hired by the U. S. Bureau of the Census, a group from which nearly all will return to the ranks of the unemployed when their services are no longer needed to complete the Census. But, there are an estimated 15 million who are out of work, a number seen by many as woefully low. Of that 15 million, two-thirds are receiving unemployment benefits.
In Washington, most of our Congressmen, both in the House and in the Senate, are far removed from ever becoming homeless. Nearly half of the senators are millionaires, with a good number verging on being part of that elite club. The House is also full of millionaires, as a quick perusal of OpenSecrets.org can attest.
Some place themselves at a distance through ideology as well. Talk of fiscal responsibility and reducing the nation’s debt means little to the seeming hopelessly unemployed. Talk of what one’s grandchildren might have to pay for in a far-off future when one is struggling to feed one’s children in the present is a concept that sounds good in the abstract, but only if one has the luxury of contemplating that abstract.
Economic status is seen by many as contributing to a distancing in society — on both ends on the financial spectrum. Many on the jobless end see those in Congress as putting themselves above them, looking down on them, indifferent to their plight.
And, it is in those feelings of distancing and perceived Congressional indifference, where several efforts andhalf-hearted compromises have seen a floundering 2010 Unemployment Extensions bill that remains unpassed and perhaps unpassable, that a common voice is being heard among the unemployed.
There have been efforts staged here and there to unite America’s jobless millions, like the petition at Change.org. There are Facebook pages and blogs calling for a united front to force Congress, especially senators, to recognize their need and vote for the passage of an unemployment extension. A group called the 99ers — so-called due to unemployment benefits eligibility ending at 99 weeks — have petitioned the president to issue an Executive Order mandating the allocation of monies to the unemployed, thereby circumventing partisan politicking and election posturing. Another effort is under way to put a face on the unemployed by bombarding the Congress with stories of the unemployed.
Some speak of uniting to defeat Congressional incumbents who have denied, voted against, or worked against the unemployment extension.
But, the unemployed face several obstacles in maintaining a united front. The number of unemployed is mercurial, subject to fluctuation through hirings and market demand. Although many thousands pass the 99 week threshold weekly, it is that staggered effect. There is also the effect of lost interest over time. Politicians depend on the short memory span of the average citizen for their political survival.
What the unemployed have in their favor, however, is their growing numbers and the internet. Taken as a cohesive whole, the unemployed in a united entity could create a massive voting bloc that could potentially alter many Congressional, not to mention local and state, elections. The convenience and speed of the internet could be used as a tool that would enable those great numbers of people to communicate a point effectively and in a timely manner.
Unite or die?
At least the first part of the motto is an attractive option. It could also be the difference between Congress moving with alacrity and/or passing an unemployment extensions bill. The latter is an unthinkable alternative save in the most figurative of meanings — although it could eventually come to that for an unfortunate few.
But the point must be made that the unemployed, those taxpayers that gave for so many years to their government, whose presence in the workplace paid the taxes that rounded out the budgets for years, are simply asking for a little help from their government to see them and their families through until the economy picks up and work can be had. More and more, the unemployed are feeling as if they have been taxed and are not being represented, while an arrogant and indifferent Congress rules from afar. Uniting to be heard and bringing pressure to bear on Congress to pass an extension, demanding that the will of the people be met, might be the best political move the unemployed could make.