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Robert J. Elisberg

Robert J. Elisberg

Posted: July 22, 2010 10:17 AM

Ladies and Gentlemen, Meet Your Republican Party!

What's Your Reaction:

People tell you who they are.

Oftentimes, we feel let down by people because we expected them to act one way, but they did something completely different. And do all the time. Yet, all the while, they'd really been telling us who they are.

Because people tell you who they are.

And we generally know it, know who that person is, but our own decent expectations get in the way. We listen with hope, but the words out of their mouths mean little. Actions truly do speak louder than words. And over time, those actions become absolutely, crystal clear - if only we look at them and pay attention.

Because people tell you who they are.

And so, when the Republican Party blocked extending emergency unemployment benefits for 49 days during biggest economic crisis in America since the Great Depression, they told you who they are.

Indeed, the Republican Party told you before. True, the time before it was ostensibly just Sen. Jim Bunning (R-KY) who held up extending unemployment benefits, but we know. We know because this time they did the exact same thing, only this time they didn't hide behind only one senator.

We know because people tell you who they are.

Without any doubt, members of the Republican Party will have their reasons why they acted as they did. And several of the words might even sound convincing to some. And seem to make perfect sense. Sort of like, "I had the greatest time on our date. I'll call you." And then...well, you know.

But in the end, they're just words. Misdirection. Razzle dazzle. Statements that suggest one thing that will please their audience on the surface, but actions that mean something else.

Because...people tell you who they are.

And whatever the reasons presented on the surface, the irrefutable fact is that during America's biggest economic crisis since the Great Depression, the Republican Party blocked extending emergency unemployment benefits. For 49 days. For the second time.

The words don't matter. The reasons don't matter. If your house is on fire, and someone says that they won't call the Fire Department because you shouldn't smoke in bed, and you'll just do it again and start another fire -- it doesn't matter if their words make sense. Your freaking house is on fire. You need the Fire Department there to put it out. Now. You'll be happy to debate your smoking habits later.

But the Republican Party -- during a national emergency (a crisis caused by the financial meltdown created by the president of their very own party) blocked paying unemployment benefits for the needy.

And not only blocked them, but did so while asking for tax breaks for the wealthy -
which Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) remarkably said didn't need the same, corresponding pesky balanced-budget cuts the GOP is demanding on unemployment benefits for the poor.

Sometimes, people not only tell you who they are, they scream it at you in your face.

(Side note: as sick as this all is, one still has to laugh at the whimsy of asking for tax breaks while blocking emergency unemployment benefits. Those jobless being blocked would likely be thrilled to pay high income taxes -- because it would mean they actually have an income.)

When you're desperate to come up with your rent, struggling to pay your daily bills, begging for food, then hearing someone at a podium explaining, "If the budget deficit increases, it will cause a burden upon sectors of the economy which..." translates to, "Go to hell." It's the equivalent of the scene in a movie where someone is hanging on to a ledge, and one-by-one, the villain lifts

But of course when Republican Party tells you who they are, there is little that speaks louder than Mr. Kyl again trying to contend that people on unemployment have no incentive to find work. (As if "survival" isn't incentive enough.) Jon Kyl is married with two children. No doubt he too would need added incentive to support his own family of four on $12,800 a year -- the absolute most a person can receive in benefits in Arizona. That is, before the benefits run out.

Saying that being on unemployment, trying to raise a family on $12,800 a year removes incentive to find work -- that tells you precisely who the Republican Party is.

And it tells you how out of touch its leaders are. They seem to think that the unemployed are the shiftless unworthy they've demonized since the '60s, and can continue to score political points attacking. But today unemployment pummels across the entire board. Struggling, desperate, middle-class Republicans, too. As shiftless now as anyone.

Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) insisted on Tuesday that "Republicans support extending benefits to the unemployed. As the president himself said yesterday, we've repeatedly voted for similar bills in the past."

Republicans do support extending benefits to the unemployed. They just don't support voting for them.

What Republicans have done in the past, of course, is moot. "I gave you CPR two years ago" doesn't cut it when refusing to aid someone who isn't breathing right now.

"What we do not support," McConnell continued, "and we make no apologies for -- is borrowing tens of billions of dollars to pass this bill at a time when the national debt is spinning completely out of control."

I'm not quite sure what "And we make no apologies for" translates to, but in the Universal Language it's the middle finger.

People tell you who they are.

In the end, this isn't about debating points. It's not about issues. It's not even about political philosophy. After all, both sides can and will always point fingers and do whatever it takes to make their case. That's why, in the end, it's about who, at your core, you are.

And people tell you who they are.

And who they care for.

And the GOP doesn't care for you. Pretty much whoever "you" are.