Yesterday, the GOP-filibustered Senate quit trying to extend the jobless benefits for 1.3 million Americans who have been out of work for two years. At the end of the week, these unemployed workers will not only be unpaid, but they will have entered into a state of extreme desperation. I’ve seen my neighbors desperate. Most of them own guns. Cutting them off abruptly is not a smart thing to do.
In the past two decades, major corporations have moved or downsized; US Air, DHL, Emery, Mead, Huffy, Standard Register, NCR and GM. Many others have downsized dramatically. All of these companies that moved away were major employers for Dayton, Ohio. All of them are now gone, leaving behind former employees who can’t afford to sell their homes because there is nobody out there willing to buy them. These are not the leeches the Republicans would have you believe are milking the unemployment system. These are hard-working people who have paid handsomely into the Federal and State unemployment INSURANCE program in the event they may have to draw from it should they find themselves out of work through no fault of their own.
The employers that have moved in all pay slightly more than minimum wage, but not much; Walmart, Payless and Caterpillar (coming soon.)
The average weekly unemployment benefit for someone out of work is a few hundred dollars. If the employee is paying for COBRA insurance, the cost of premiums must also come out of that meager amount. If they go to work at the local Walmart of Home Depot, they lose their benefits but more importantly, their ability to look for work. But that matters little; Walmart and Home Depot are not hiring.
In contrast, each US Senator who voted to cut off benefits to the long-term unemployed drew $3,346.15 last week. They will draw the same amount next week. And the week after. Their health insurance is paid for and they don’t risk being laid off when they show up for work tomorrow due to right-sizing or economic downturn.
Forty-one of them got paid for doing nothing other than showing up to vote “No.”
I can understand how easy it can be to draw the conclusion that the unemployment “safety net” is turning into a “hammock” when you don’t have to worry about being fired at will tomorrow. What I don’t understand is the failure of US Senators to understand that it is only because of tax dollars these “deadbeats” paid into a system that they are able to draw a salary that continues to adjust upwards to the cost of living, but never downwards based on the state of the economy.
Most of my neighbors would rather be working than hanging out and taking unemployment. They are unemployed and only unemployable because there are no jobs to be had. And the unemployment insurance is not a handout or a free entitlement like the GOP would have you believe; it has been paid into by the very people who need it but hoped they never would.
Cutting them off and then blaming them for their own unemployment can’t be a good thing, especially when forty-one Senators all got paid last week for doing what amounts to what they accuse the unemployed of doing; nothing.