Why Did the Senate Republicans Give My Family the Finger?

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June 25, 2010 by D Stack

Last night Senate Republicans drew a firm line in the sand. With their filibuster, extensions to unemployment benefits were over. Why? Because Republicans insisted that any extensions to unemployment benefits be paid for out of stimulus money, not out of increasing Federal debt.

I voted against this bill today because it would add another $30 billion to the mounting debt that we’re going to have to hand over to our grandchildren.

–  Lamar Alexander, Republican Senator from Tennessee

This is a curious stance to take. First of all, stimulus money is designed to help create jobs. With five unemployed people per job opening, the creation of new jobs should be considered of extremely high importance.

Moreover, this dedication to holding back the deficit has arrived rather late. Under a Republican-controlled Senate, increases to the deficit paid for tax cuts, two wars, medicare prescription drug benefits (without any attempt to negotiate better prices from drug companies), etc.

Yet people who are out of work in the worst recession since the Great Depression are to be the sacrificial offering to holding back the deficit. Not a military budget laden with countess boondoggles and a war of choice. Not by re-examining the tax code which allows companies which operate in the United State to pay no taxes and for many of the very rich to pay a smaller percentage of their income in taxes than most members of the middle class. But by laying the burden on the unemployed.

It doesn’t even seem to make good economic sense. Keeping people on unemployment benefits allows them to keep their homes and keeps them in the community. They continue paying property taxes. This continues to pay for police, firemen, teachers, etc. If people lose their homes when the economy finally recovers they will have a far longer climb to make it back where they were. And so will their communities. Instead of a few years of pain, our nation could have a lost decade.

I’ve registered my extreme displeasure with one of my senators, Scott Brown, who participated in the filibuster. A friend of mine did likewise, explaining his logic on Facebook in a way that I think summarizes it perfectly:

I recently said as much to Sen. Brown in an email to his office.  The GOP loves to say we can’t dishonor our troops by using budget battles to stand in the way of bullets, guns and armor.  How about honoring the men and women struggling to put bread on the table and earn an honest wage??  Disgusting!!

I’ve heard some of the strangest arguments in support of cutting unemployment. Like saying we must remove the unemployment “incentive”. While I’m sure if you looked hard enough you could find some person, probably without a family, lounging around enjoying unemployment benefits. For the rest of the unemployed every day is agony, filled with worry about providing for family.

Sadly, my wife, a chemistry teacher, just joined these ranks. Hopefully she’ll secure new employment before the start of a new year. She has multiple Masters’ degrees, a decade of industry experience, and several years of teaching experience. And schools need chemistry teachers. So we’re not in a hopeless situation. But we are in a damn scary one. What happens if September rolls around and she hasn’t found a new job? Falling back on family is no solution – pretty much every family member I can think of who might have been able to help under normal circumstances has also had recent encounters with unemployment. I can assure Senator Brown and everyone else who participated in this filibuster that we need no incentive to get off unemployment. Nor do nearly all of the Americans who will suffer as a result of this filibuster.

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