|Imagine the scene; there are the Senators all in their expensive suits, high end electronics at their sides, expensive watches at their wrists, sitting in the lovely hearing rooms at the Capital. In come the five witnesses, the laid off factory worker in his mid-forties, single mom who was an administrative assistant for a medium size company, the engineer who worked her whole life at one company and now is unlikely to find a job in her field again because of age bias, the construction worker who used to build houses and the coffee shop worker who lost her job to hours cuts.
They come to the Senate in their very best clothes, just like everyone does, but it is instantly apparent that what is their best is something the Senators would never consider wearing in their hallowed halls of the Greatest Deliberative Body in the World. What would our witnesses tell the Senators? They would testify to the reality that people like Senator Ben Nelson (D (sort of)-NB) and Senator Scott Brown (Dumbass-MA) seem to have forgotten or never known, that unemployment benefits are not enough to really live on.
They will tell the story of filling out there five or so required applications every week, in order to get that small check that puts food on the table. They will talk about the crushing despair of applying for more than 260 jobs, going on interview after interview and still not being able to be hired. They will talk about what it has done to their families; the bankruptcies, the loss of their homes, the grinding fear that they will have to choose between the water bill and putting food on the table for their kids this month.
If one day of this does not move the stone-hearted Senators of the Republican Party and one Democrat (I am looking straight at your corn-fed jowly face Sen. Nelson!) and make them realize that this is not an abstract thing, then every committee that has anything to do with employment should hold the same kind of hearing everyday until it does.
There is a lot of information that these Senators don't seem to have. The average maximum unemployment benefit is $293 dollars a week. That is less than $1,200 a month, and it is the maximum. The highest benefit is $628 in Massachusetts, and the lowest is in Mississippi which expects folks to get by on $230 dollars a week at the top end. It might be interesting to see if these Senators really think that there are people who want to stay on that kind of money.
It is true that there are some who are not taking lower paying jobs, because their benefits are better than the minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. Why would they do that? Well it might have something to do with the fact that they are already going under financially on the amount of money they are getting in benefits, so taking a job where they will make less does not actually make things any better.
It might serve to make the Republicans like Sharon Angle and Rand Paul happy with people working "honest jobs" but the reality is those not taking a wage lower than their benefits are making the rational decision. They will not get COBRA subsidies when they are employed and those types of jobs are extremely unlikely to have health care benefits. The net affect of this would be to make their financial crisis worse by orders of magnitude.
Having hearings that show what the real face of the deepest economic crisis in generations would have another benefit. This move to neo-Hooverism austerity measures and deficit reduction will mean that millions more of our fellow citizens will face the same hardships of the long term unemployed. Turning off the only source of demand in the economy, namely government spending, at this point verges on the insane. The fact that every dollar of unemployment benefits comes back to the economy as $1.92 of GDP should be enough reason to keep the money flowing, but that is not how they think (assuming, of course that the Jethro Bodine's of the Republican Party actually think).
The same Senators that happily (even gleefully) signed us up for a trillion plus in war spending on a war of choice need to understand what the cost of tightening the belt of the nation will really mean. There is no doubt that they are not going to be tightening their belts. None of them will be giving up their $174,000 per annum salaries in the name of deficit reduction, even the ones who are multi-millionaires.
I have a little sympathy for Senators, it is easy to get out of touch with the practical realities of day to day life in America when you are in such rarified company and settings. There is a tendency to look at the overall or philosophical issues, especially when one is part of a party that is so ideologically rigid. However the time has come to bring their heads out of the clouds and force them to see the real life consequences of their cold hearted intransigence face to face. Perhaps then they will understand what they are doing by their politically motivated stunt of denying desperate citizens the one life line they can count on.
It may not move them, but it will surely move the public. To see day after day the plight of our fellow citizens will stoke the anger at Republican obstructionism. It is a cold political calculation, but if the Republicans will not help the formerly working people of this nation they then should be made to pay for it at the ballot box. By showing the kinds of stories the unemployed are living and juxtaposing the words and actions of Republicans we can show the voters who is really on their side and who is completely and totally on the side of the powerful and wealthy.
It is time to have ongoing hearings. I don't understand why Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Reid have not started doing this, but it is time for them to get the message. Take a minute and call their offices and let them know you think it is a good idea to show the real face of the unemployed and stop the Republicans for slandering our fellow citizens who can not find work.
Here are their office numbers:
Speaker Nancy Pelosi - 202-225-0100 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 202-225-0100 end_of_the_skype_highlighting begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 202-225-0100 end_of_the_skype_highlighting
Majority Leader Reid - 202-224-3542
The floor is yours.