The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Editorial:
Democrats and Republicans:
Holding the Unemployed Hostage

Jun 28, 2010

By the end of June, Congress had still not passed a bill to fund the emergency extended unemployment benefits. Already, one month had passed since funding had run out for this program – and the benefits for close to 1.5 million workers had already been cut. One and a half million families were threatened with utter destitution, little or no money for food, shelter, clothing.

The Democrats and Republicans have let vital funding for emergency unemployment benefits run out four times in just the last six months.

Ever since unemployment hit record levels, the Democrats and Republicans have been playing political games with the funding for extended benefits. Each time the funding has come up for renewal, the politicians from both parties have maneuvered for their own political advantage, blaming the other party for not coming up with the money. And when they finally coughed up the money, it was only for a few more months – at most.

This benefit program is supposed to kick in during an emergency, when unemployment levels remain high for a long time, and millions of workers are running out of the usual unemployment insurance coverage, along with its extensions. Therefore, those workers have no other means of support.

Funding for this kind of program should be permanently available, to be used in cases of economic emergencies.

If the Republicans truly represented those ruined by the crisis, as they say, if the Democrats represented ordinary working people, as they say, they would have supported permanent funding during times of economic emergency.

Of course, the Democrats and Republicans have done nothing of the kind.

Instead, they have resorted to the usual political rhetoric of blaming the cost of the emergency benefits for the unemployed for driving up the federal budget deficit. The Republicans have argued the funding is too costly, all together. The Democrats counter by proposing to cut unemployment benefits by $25 per week.

Both parties are literally snatching the food from the mouths of hungry children.

And for what? By cutting aid to the unemployed, as well as every other safety net and social program, the politicians are merely making more money available for the banks and big business. The Democrats and Republicans have already fattened corporate profits and wealth by providing huge tax breaks, obscene subsidies and fat contracts – thus already widening the budget deficit before the crisis broke out. With the crisis, the government accelerated this aid at warp speed: literally trillions of taxpayer dollars are being shoveled over to the very banks, companies and speculators whose mad drive for profits triggered the crisis in the first place.

It’s the money given to the capitalists that has made the budget deficit balloon.

The toll from the record level of unemployment can’t just be measured in dollars and cents. It is a stupendous waste in every way possible: human, social, economic. It condemns working people to both idleness and abject misery, literally wasting away. All of this is a product of a society run solely for the profits of big business and the wealthy.

Everyone should have a decent job. And if big business and the state officials don’t provide this basic minimum, the very least Congress should do is make sure that people continue to have an income, until they find a job. Clearly, the capitalists and their government no longer even pretend to do that.

They sit astride an increasingly corrupt and destructive system.