International President, United Steelworkers
Posted: July 19, 2010 11:09 AM
A brutal competition pits worker against worker continually now in this country. Five unemployed people vie with each other for each available job. It's like a cruel game of musical chairs, with five desperate competitors for one seat.
Workers who've lost cars to repossession and homes to foreclosure run around frantically trying to get that one job. When the music stops, four disheartened, still-unemployed people move to other viscous cycles of five struggling to win one available job.
Republicans watching this blame the 14.6 million unemployed Americans for the inadequate number of chairs. They've called the unemployed lazy and refused to extend unemployment compensation. Meanwhile, the GOP is demanding an extension of Bush's tax cuts for the rich.
To the GOP, the rich are deserving. Republicans see the unemployed as leeches -- not as victims of filthy-rich, banksters who destroyed the economy, not as the stalwart citizens whose tax money Bush used to bail out Wall Street. To Republicans, the unemployed - along with the un-rich - deserve only disrespect.
And they've been heaping it on.
Republican Sen. John Kyl of Arizona said during a debate on the Senate floor, for example. "In fact, if anything, continuing to pay people unemployment compensation is a disincentive for them to seek new work."
Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah demanded drug tests for those receiving unemployment benefits, "We should not be giving cash to people who basically are just going to blow it on drugs."
Republican Senatorial candidate Sharron Angle of Nevada said extending benefits to the unemployed, who she characterized as "spoiled," would be "terrible." She told a radio station: "You can make more money on unemployment than you can going down and getting one of those jobs that is an honest job, but it doesn't pay as much. And so that's what's happened to us is that we have put in so much entitlement into our government that we really have spoiled our citizenry and said you don't want the jobs that are available."
Republican Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer of South Carolina said the unemployed, like stupid stray animals, should not be fed: "My grandmother was not a highly educated woman but she told me as a small child to quit feeding stray animals. You know why? Because they breed. You're facilitating the problem if you give an animal or person ample food supply. They will reproduce, especially ones that don't think too much further than that. And so what you've got to do is you've got to curtail that type of behavior. They don't know any better."
Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Corbett of Pennsylvania denied U.S. Labor Department statistics, insisting there are plenty of jobs, but the unemployed are shiftless and prefer their paltry government benefits over jobs: "The jobs are there. But if we keep extending unemployment, people are just going to sit there."
By contrast, Democrats, who view the highest unemployment rates in 28 years as an emergency, have repeatedly tried to get a compensation extension passed and will mount another attempt Tuesday.
Disdainful of the unemployed, Republicans have refused to vote to extend the lifeline unless Congress ends its historical practice of classifying unemployment compensation as emergency funding, which is added to the deficit. The GOP is demanding that the $35 billion cost of extending compensation be offset by cutting federal programs or by reducing the stimulus - the very program designed to create jobs for the unemployed. In the six weeks since extended unemployment compensation expired and Republicans have blocked renewal, weekly checks averaging $300 ended for 2 million Americans.
Republicans try to sound fiscally responsible as they explain their votes disregarding the plight of the unemployed. But Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl's words wreck the GOP's deliberate disinformation campaign. While insisting that unemployment compensation extension be offset, Kyl says that's entirely unnecessary for extension of Bush's tax cuts for the wealthy. When Republicans give rich people tax breaks, the GOP thinks it's fine for the $678 billion cost to be added to the deficit.
Minority whip Kyl's stance is held by the majority in his party. Most Republicans agree Congress need not pay for tax cuts benefitting the wealthy. "That's been the majority Republican view for some time," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said, "So I think what Senator Kyl was expressing was the view of virtually every Republican on that subject."
Today, American workers face the worst job market since the Great Depression, with unemployment stuck at 9.5 percent and the average spell of joblessness lasting 35 weeks. In May, there were 11.8 million more unemployed workers than there were job openings.
Democrats see the pain of losing a job, financial security and hope for the future. Republicans see something entirely different - lazy, drug-addicted moochers living off the rich who the GOP believes should continue to be taxed at rates lower than those paid by their secretaries.
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