Sunday, July 11, 2010

Republicans are not so compassionately conservative after all

At the end of June, just before their Fourth of July recess, Republican Senators and one Democrat revealed an unwillingness to help America’s jobless by ending any further debate on a bill that would extend unemployment benefits.

I am not surprised! Republicans infrequently support legislation that would provide assistance to the indigent or to families who live on Main Street, but frequently will support Wall Street. Furthermore, it’s interesting to note that this will make the third time that Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown has joined Republicans in blocking a vote on unemployment extensions.

Senate Republicans and a Democrat have denied 1.3 million unemployed Americans, many with families who have children or elders who need assistance, a financial resource that help to put food on the table, to keep a roof over their head, to maintain, pay, and put gas in their car in order to look for and report for that first day of work, or even to provide for medical care.

The Boston Globe reports, “If Congress fails to act by the end of July, an additional 2 million will lose their unemployment checks.”

As of July 1st, according to the Massachusetts Office of Labor and Workforce Development, around 30,000 residents will have lost unemployment benefits. Without another extension, another 10,000 per week will continue to see their payments end.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, in order to keep the unemployment bill viable, has put forth a new version of H.R. 4213 for a cloture vote that will take place sometime after July 12. The price tag on the new bill also has been slimmed down to $33.9 billion.

However, no one should expect quick action. On their first day back, the Senate is set to consider a motion to “proceed to” H.R. 5297, the Small Business Lending Act of 2010.

And, don’t forget, we still have the Republicans who say it’s not being fiscally responsible to legislate an unemployment benefit extension without providing the means for funding it, despite the fact that passing this legislation under emergency funding has been the precedent for 30 years.

This Republican requirement is inexplicable, I am sure you will remember that with the 2008 TARP legislation, banks received billions in emergency funds.

Senator Brown said he would vote for extended unemployment assistance if money for it came from unused stimulus funds. However, the unused stimulus funds were earmarked for stimulus projects as they came on line, as, for example, the Pembroke, Massachusetts, Center Shopping Plaza Project that just came on line as a result of recently awarded federal stimulus money.

It’s also interesting to note that House Minority Leader John Boehner has essentially said that reforming the country's entitlement system will be necessary to ensure there's enough money to pay for the war. Evidently, Republicans believe that spending on spent bullets and bombs that have killed millions of innocent human beings is more important than assisting unemployed American workers.

Wouldn’t it be refreshing if “compassionate conservatism” really existed?

To avert layoffs, many businesses cut work hours, shorten workweeks, curtail pay increases, and reduce benefits in order to marginalize the need for layoffs. They have employed every conceivable way to keep their workers on the job throughout this fiscal crisis.

The employers and employees who have participated in those actions have shown that they are willing to do what they can to lessen the unemployment threat in their workplaces.

Wouldn’t it be refreshing if Congress sacrificed as so many American workers have, perhaps take a pay cut in order to pay for unemployment and help fund those wars?

“How would that work for ya?”

Do I hear “You Betcha?”