On Monday, in the midst of America's deepest recession since the Great Depression, Republican senator Jon Kyl argued on the Senate floor against unemployment insurance.
The problem, he says, is that "people are being paid even though they're not working."
In fairness, Senator Kyl (R-AZ) is technically accurate. But of course, paying people when they're not working is the actual point of unemployment insurance. Though the senator would seemingly rather pay people when they are working, that is called a salary, which would mean they already had a job, which they don't, which again is the whole point of unemployment insurance.
What Mr. Kyl has also overlooked is that while these oh-so-lucky unemployed people are getting paid when not working, they're getting paid in part with their own money. Money they themselves paid into the system when they had jobs. So, as much as the senator would like to portray such unemployed people as freeloaders, the reality is that they're actually getting back what they're owed. But why muddy the argument with reality and decency?
Though his statement might look cold and heartless, in fact Mr. Kyl would likely claim that he only has the best interests of the destitute in mind. That's because he notes, "continuing to pay people unemployment compensation is a disincentive for them to seek new work."
And it's true. It is. People on unemployment insurance know that they have a cash cow of upwards of $200 a week pouring in over the transom. That comes to a whopping $10,000 a year to live on. And what person would want to get a real job when you know you are swimming in a lap of luxury like that?! That's $200 each and every week. Okay, not every week, because it runs out pretty quickly. But at least you know that before it runs out, that's 200 buckeroos free and clear. Okay, it's not free and clear, you have to pay taxes on it. But the first $2,400 is yours. All yours!
But of course the main thing Sen. Kyl ignores - and which shows how utterly out of touch he is with reality (and decency) - is that his whine presupposes that there are actually JOBS for people to drop unemployment and get hired in!!
To Sen. Kyl's credit, he's consistent. After all, we know that he's not only against insurance to help the unemployed, but also against health care to help the sick. You'll recall that Mr. Kyl is the good fellow who argued against insurance for pregnant women by callously saying, "I don't need maternity care."
Given that Jon Kyl is the Republican Whip in the senate, his voice on such subjects is not without weight. After all, he's the senator who's very job it is to build up GOP support on their issues. So, when he speaks, it's with meaning far beyond his own interests.
So, it's no surprise when we see a Republican like Sen. Jim Bunning blocking the extension of unemployment benefits. During the worst recession since the Great Depression. And - no other Republican denounced him. One senator called him a hero.
And it's no surprise either when we see Republicans unanimously battling against health care reform that would protect for 46 million Americans without any insurance at all.
And that since its inception, Republicans have railed against Medicare. Hoping to dismantle it.
And that since its inception, Republicans have railed against Social Security. Hoping to dismantle it, as well.
No doubt, Republicans have detailed, well-thought out arguments for each of these issues. After all, since each is a serious matter, and each requires serious thought and discussion.
It's just, well, when you step back, open your eyes and look at the proverbial Big Picture, you get so much a better view of the entire forest.
You see that Republicans are against Social Security, Medicare, health care, and against unemployment insurance. They were against child labor laws, the 40-hour work week, and against - always against - raising the minimum wage. Against the Civil Rights bills. Against Affirmative Action.
In legal circles, this is called "pattern and practice."
No matter how thoughtful any one argument alone may appear close up, all the arguments together - decade after decade - show clearly that the Republican Party continually is against helping people when they are in need of help. And if it means that you'll starve, or be destitute, or die without assistance, "tough..." - in the words of Sen. Jim Bunning (R-KY) - "shit."
No doubt they will argue that they're not against helping people in need. That they're just against the government helping people in need. (Never mind that the government helping the people it represents is the very point of government.) But fine, let's take the Republican Party at their word: let's accept that they are only against the government helping people in need.
Fair enough. That's what a Republican is against. Got it.
That, however, is an argument for why anyone who might ever want their government to help them and protect them should never elect a Republican into that very government.
I know that I'm being a bit glib here. It's actually a complex issue filled with many involved and valid points of view.
Yet in the end, one reality still gets repeated and repeated. When the Republican Party in Congress has had a chance to stand up to help and protect Americans in need, they pretty much always sit down.
And tell those in need to drop dead.
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