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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The forgotten ones
Posted by Jill | 5:41 AM
The nearly 14 million unemployed people in this country are a constant reproach to the Republican economic doctrine of shoveling as much money as you can into the pockets of a few already ridiculously wealthy people. For all that the GOP is trying mightily to restrict voting so that those without automobiles or a stable address, or those whose skin pigmentation or age indicates a possible vote against their party, cannot vote; there's still this stubborn reality that there's only so much you can steal an election when a majority of Americans have had enough of waiting until corporate CEOs think they are finally rich enough to trickle some largesse down to the peons by deigning to hire them to do something at their companies. What that something would be when no one other than the 1% can afford to buy anything remains to be seen, but that's the Republican doctrine and they're sticking with it.

I keep thinking of that notion put forth on Up With Chris Hayes last weekend, that this is now a nation of wasted resources -- 13.3 million of them, in fact. But rather than blame the GOP (and to a lesser degres, the Democrats, who are willing to be bought more cheaply), and the people who finance them and turn Congressmen from rural backwaters into multimillionaires simply by demanding legislation in exchange for campaign contributions, it's so much easier to demonize those who are unemployed due to outsourcing, appeasing Wall Street through massive job cuts, changes in technology, or simple obsolescence. After all, if they can just keep those of us who still have jobs separate from those who don't, perhaps enough votes can be squeezed out of the middle class to elect enough Republicans to completely demolish our way of life more quickly than the piecemeal efforts we've seen over the last thirty years.

The easiest way to do this is to paint the unemployed as somehow different from those of us lucky enough to still have jobs. So what the GOP is trying to do is turn all of the unemployed, no matter what their age or race or work history, into "the new n----rs" -- lazy, shiftless, drug-addicted leeches on society. Newt Gingrich advocates that anyone receiving any kind of federal aid (such as extended unemployment benefits) be drug tested. So does Congressman Jack Kingston.

All this brings us to word this morning of a "compromise" that may be reached today in the budget stalemate that threatens to shut down the government on the 16th of this month. When I hear "compromise" in the context of negotiations on Capitol Hill, what that means is "Democratic Capitulation", because the Democrats have shown again and again that there is no Republican plan to which they won't eventually capitulate, because if they don't, Chuck Todd and Bob Shieffer will paint them as obstructionist. Of course history has shown that capitulation doesn't change the media spin one iota, but that doesn't stop them from doing it. And of course there might be some trickle-down largesse from lobbyists as a consolation prize as well.

Today an editorial from the New York Times breaks down the Republican plan, just so you know what's coming when the Democrats blink, as we all know they will:
At last count, 13.3 million people were officially unemployed and 5.7 million of them had been out of work for more than six months. At no time in the last 60 years has long-term unemployment been so high for so long.

But Republican lawmakers would have you believe that the nation cannot afford jobless benefits and that many recipients are not so much needy, as lazy, disinclined to work as long as benefits are available. When was the last time any Republican lawmaker tried to live on $289 a week, the amount of the average benefit?

Under current policy, federal benefits kick in when state-provided benefits run out, typically after 26 weeks. The duration of the federal payouts depends on the level of unemployment in a given state. Currently, workers in 22 of the hardest-hit states — including California, New Jersey and Connecticut — qualify for up to 73 more weeks of aid. In five other states — including New York — up to 67 more weeks are available. In the remaining 23 states, maximum federal benefits range from 34 weeks to 60 weeks. The cost to continue the program for another year would be about $45 billion.

The Republican plan would cut $11 billion of that in 2012 by slashing up to 40 weeks from the program, reducing by more than half the maximum 73 weeks now available. Because of the way the program is structured, the biggest cuts would come in the states with the highest unemployment. Millions of jobless workers would be quickly left without subsistence, and the weak economy would be weakened further by the drop in consumer spending.

The bill would also impose onerous — and gratuitous — requirements on people who apply for jobless benefits. It would allow states to drug test applicants and would require recipients to be high-school graduates or working toward an equivalency degree

Don't look at your neighbor who does construction and hasn't worked in a year. Don't look at your spouse who can only get contract work for half the pay he used to get and no benefits, paid holidays, or vacation time. Don't look at the sixty-year-old down the street who's spent his own money on courses to keep his skills up to date and can't find a tech job because the industry is "too fast-paced" for him. Don't look at the machinist on the next block who would be happy to retrain for something if he only knew what kind of training would net him a job where he could supplement his wife's pay as a waitress at iHOP and maybe get their home out of foreclosure. Just convince people that all of those people are lazy, shiftless drug addicts -- just like those black people the GOP used to demonize when it was OK to do so (and if you're Newt Gingrich, you think it still is) and that unemployment can't happen to them.

This tactic of pointing people's attention down the economic ladder to the boogeyman of choice while the people up the ladder take the last few bucks out of our back pockets has worked for thirty years, convincing Americans that THEY are somehow different, that poverty will NEVER affect THEM, because THEY aren't LIKE those OTHER PEOPLE.

Except that in the Great Recession of the Oughts, yes, they are. The only question is how many of them know it, and how long it will be before they join them.

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11 Comments:
Blogger Serr8d said...
Tell you what: show me, in the Constitution, where it's Government responsibility to care for any of it's citizens.

Best if Gov't gets out of the way, slims down, and lets the rest of us do as we can, or can't, as is going to happen anyway soon enough.

If you haven't noticed, Europe's been all socialisty since the end of WWII, with too-generous programs; see what's happening over there?

Our problems will be insurmountable, and violently bloody. Our next Civil War won't be near as pleasant as the last one.

We are not all socialists, nor will be ever be. Get over it, learn to live in your means, care for your relatives, and stop expecting government to take care of you. Those days are over.

Blogger thebanana said...
But, but, but....it's America, where any boy or girl can grow up to be President! Right?

Blogger Ahab said...
This morning, I caught the first 30 minutes of Current TV's VANGUARD episode on Occupy Wall Street. It shares some of the observations that you made -- that many disenfranchised people in America (and OWS) aren't lazy, but have been left behind by an unjust system. If you get the chance, watch it.

Blogger New York Crank said...
The last time a small class of people in control talked the way Serr8d is talking about a mass of people who were starving through of fault of their own (Does the phrase "Let them eat cake!" ring a bell?) their heads started bouncing all over Place de la Concorde.

Keep your hat on, Serr8td. I want to see if it comes off when your head falls off.

Yours very crankily,
The New York Crank

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Well, Americans have always believed in punishing the poor--that's Calvinism for you--another rancid aspect of the Christian religion.

To steal from G.B.Shaw, Americans believe that "poverty isn't a crime, but it ought to be." Also, and supporting this attitude, is what I call the "bully mentality" in America--it's always fun (and profitable)to go after the weak and powerless, instead of going after the real criminals, who have money and power and who (if you're a politician) own your ass.

Besides, the Repubs have no desire to alleviate economic distress--to those soulless scum it's merely a good campaign tactic to make things worse in this country, in an election season....

Blogger PurpleGirl said...
...waiting until corporate CEOs think they are finally rich enough to trickle some largesse down to the peons by deigning to hire them to do something at their companies.

No, they will never feel like they have enough money. Never, ever, ever.

And serrated -- let's see how you survive when the 1% eat your retirement accounts and leave you with nothing. Better hope that you are able to work until you die.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Those are the "official" numbers - better named the "cooked" numbers. Deeper analysis shows that the most accurate number is around 44,000,000! 22,000,000 have simply given up, dropped off unemployment and been erased from the picture. 8,000,000 have gone back to school. 14,000,000 Americans are simply on the conveyer-belt headed toward the pile of those uncounted.

Let's start by being honest and not accepting misinformation as fact.

Blogger Grung_e_Gene said...
Won't someone please think of the Millionaires!?!?!?!

The Plutocracy which controls this nation of course does not want any programs which aid people. All they are interested in is having a giant military, which they profit off of at Home and Abroad. They get giant taxpayer contracts and then ensure the military is used to open up foreign markets.

And having a paramilitary police force (or forces) which quell all domestic dissent.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Start with preable, Serr8d - 'promote the general welfare '(welfare n. 1. health, happiness, or prosperity; well-being. [<ME wel faren, to fare well] Source: AHD)
from http://www.usconstitution.net/const.html#Preamble
The argument is down to how to acheive this - does it promote the general welfare, for example, to support monopolies?
(JavaDavis - anonymous because I don't want to mess with the other redio buttons right now...)

Blogger Patricia said...
Sad to say, but serr8d proved the point of the whole post. He will vote like all the other puritanical, pull yourself up by your bootstraps or die, misguided fools. That is, until the breadwinner of your family dies (like mine did) or you contract a chronic illness, maybe a terminal one, that bankrupts you, or lose your job through no fault of your own. Death comes to us all serr8d, and there's a special place in hell for you.

Blogger Pangolin said...
Serr8d needs a quick kick in the fork and then a hard smack on the knee with a lead pipe. Then he can gloat about how employable he is with a pre-existing medical condition that keeps him from working as fast as the first 22 year-old college graduate in the door.

Of course, chances are that like most conservative trolls, Serr8d is already retired and living off of government benefits, medical care and a pension that he would deny others.

Bastards.