A group of Prescott activists met at the office of U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., on Jan. 9 to plead for mercy for our fellow Americans. The GOP still delayed a bill to resume long-term unemployment benefits. 1.3 million workers had been without incomes for almost two weeks. In the dead of winter, during an especially cold winter. It is a man-made economic catastrophe on the scale of Hurricane Katrina. And "someone else's family going broke" isn't typically the kind of catastrophe GOP leadership cared about, so we were worried.
They were using the same old dodge: They weren't going to vote for anything that wasn't funded. As Rand Paul ranted, they certainly "weren't going to borrow money from China to pay people not to work." Something was going to have to be cut if they were to be expected to care the families of 1.3 million Americans.
The GOP say that unemployment benefits make people lazy, cause people to stay unemployed. At a time when there are three job seekers for every new job posted, that's easily debunked. People receiving unemployment had been employed, contributing to their own unemployment insurance, paying into the system, sometimes for decades, for times exactly like this. It typically takes 35 weeks for a person who loses their job to find an equitable replacement. The extended benefits would have lasted 36 weeks.
Who really benefits from unemployment benefits? Yes, the people who don't starve to death or live in the streets, they, of course, benefit, but more importantly, money in the hands of the poor and middle class goes right back into the stores where people shop, and on to the factories and farms that produce the goods and produce those people consume. With 1.3 million poor and middle class people, every extra dollar they have adds up through consumer spending.
The $26 billion or so the benefits are said to cost are about the same amount as the GOP cost the government with their recent shutdown. If they are OK with borrowing money to spite the president, why won't they borrow to save the lives of Americans?
No matter what purity the GOP wants to claim, when it comes to taxes and borrowing money, the government already borrows 40 percent of all it spends because of GOP resistance to taxes, which means that we still owe the money later anyway. Who are they helping with this anti-tax rhetoric? The public, at some point, will still have to pay for the debt through future taxes. So there are hundreds of billions of dollars worth of things the GOP is ready to borrow money on - but not our citizens.
Americans are supposed to care for each other. It is in fact the clear and stated purpose of the American government, according the very Constitution Congress is charged with upholding: to provide for the common defense and promote the general welfare of all Americans, to raise sufficient taxes to do so when possible, to borrow when necessary.
Consciously choosing to extend their fellow Americans very real misery for their claim of abstract principles violates their oath to the Constitution. They haven't even gotten the preamble right and flunk at Article One. If they can't get that right, how can we trust them with the future? What kind of future are they after when they are so willing to starve the present?
Grover Norquist's dream of having a government so small it could be drowned in a bathtub means government that could not provide social services to the needy, security to the public, or infrastructure for the economy. With no education, social services, health care for the poor, or even fire or police protection for areas that could not afford privatized services, much of America will resemble a Third World country.
So yeah, we were begging for an extension of our fellow Americans' unemployment benefits, begging for our country, begging Paul Gosar to have a heart.
I wonder what he will say?
Mikel Weisser is a political writer and a Democratic candidate for U.S. House of Representatives.