Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Woe to Live on

Republicans are fighting to deny extended unemployment benefits to millions of Americans.  In Sarasota, Florida, this is one of the better jobs currently available.

Thee Optimist doesn't like Republicans.  

Now, don't get me wrong.  I love all people, kind of in the same way Jesus used to do. 

And I like some individual Republicans.  I like YOU, for example.  You're one of the good ones. 

Most individual Republicans I've known are people who seem to have stumbled into the party by accident, or because their parents were Republicans, or because, you know, they have problems.

But in general, the vast majority of Republicans, Republicans in the aggregate, no, I don't like them.

Here's how it works.

Republican politicians and pundits and organizers make their living by pandering to the baser instincts and fears of very backward people.  That's it, in a nutshell.

People are routinely conned into voting against their own economic interests because professional manipulators bombard them with scary messages about gays, and foreigners who come to America, and women who get abortions, and Arab terrorists. 

Many of these backward, easily-conned people self-identify as Christians.  But don't get me started on Christians right now because what I really want to talk about is unemployment benefits.

Okay, let me say just a few words about Christians.  

As part of my colorful background, I had the experience of studying the teachings of Jesus Christ in a pretty in-depth way for several years.  Jesus Christ, if such a person ever actually existed, loved all people.  

That's the WHOLE FUCKING POINT of the Jesus story.  Can you really attend church for decades of your life and miss the whole point?  

How?  How do you do that?

Jesus loved (and continues to love) gay people.  If you don't like gay people, that means YOU don't like gay people.  Not Jesus.  

Jesus loves Mexicans, and wants them to come to the United States, and work hard and support their families back home, and raise new families here, if that's what they want to do.  If you don't like Mexicans, that means YOU don't like Mexicans.  Not Jesus. 

See how that works?

You continually vote against your own economic interests (which are vastly more important than your social opinions) because there are people you don't like.  And mostly you don't like these people because you're afraid of them.  Because you're weak.  

That's okay, Jesus isn't weak.  He loves you anyway.   
 
Now let's get to the point.


Republicans Block Extended Unemployment Benefits for Millions of Americans

An ongoing trend in this country has been the corporate outsourcing of good, middle-class jobs to overseas locations, where the labor is cheaper, where environmental controls are weaker, and where workplace safety regulations are often nonexistent.  

It's about corporate profits being more valuable than the lives of people.

This is a betrayal of the unspoken social contract that gave this country a measure of stability from let's say, the 1930s until 1990 or thereabouts.  

It doesn't get explained in the press like that very much, but you know, major corporations own the large media outlets.

As a result, many people, American workers, have fallen into a very vulnerable state.  Good jobs are hard to come by.  This became doubly true in the most recent recession, where millions of people lost the jobs they did have.  

During 2008, in response to the jobs crisis, the federal government extended unemployment benefits to millions of workers after their state unemployment benefits ran out.  This was a reasonable and humane thing to do, from a government that isn't always great about taking care of its people. 

The benefits have been extended 11 times since 2008, in recognition of the fact that more than a million people are now long-term unemployed.  

This past December, Republicans in Congress blocked the extension of benefits to the long-term unemployed.  They have their stated reasons, but they're not worth repeating.

So I'm not going to repeat them.  

See, I get annoyed when I'm forced to repeat mindless pap, and I feel pretty good right now.  

If you really want to know what they say, you can look here.  Just keep two things in mind: 1) it's horseshit, and 2) the Republicans themselves don't even believe it.

Oh, the target audience for these ideas probably swallow them hook, line and sinker, but the professional political class don't believe a word of what they, themselves, are saying.

In any event, the result has been that now, nearly 1.9 million long-term unemployed workers, in the United States of America, that great Christian nation, have lost their benefits and are dangling over the abyss.  These workers have more than 3 million dependent children.

All in all, there are now more than 10 million unemployed workers, not counting the millions of "discouraged" workers who are no longer even considered part of the economy.  

And all these unemployed workers are vying against each other for jobs that are not jobs.  


The Craigslist Job Search

As part of the research for this little article, I spent some time looking at the Sarasota, Florida want ads on Craigslist.  It was a demoralizing experience, and I don't even need a job. 

What kind of jobs are available?

Well, if you're a young woman, there's plenty of per diem work as a fledgling porn star.  Send pics first.  

There are lots and lots of jobs where if you send $25 somewhere via PayPal, they'll set you up with an awesome, one-of-a-kind, work-from-home opportunity. 

There are $8-an-hour jobs where you work as a human advertisement, standing in the Florida noonday sun along six-lane Route 41, holding up a sign that says WE BUY GOLD!  

Some of these Route 41 jobs are advertised as "not for the weak."  You can say that again.  If you're physically strong and fit enough to stand there for hours in the blazing heat, choking on carbon-monoxide, I'd suggest you're in the wrong line of work.  I'd try home invasions or muggings instead.

My point is these aren't jobs.  They're a meatgrinder.  


Stories of the Long-Term Unemployed

PBS, which is your Public Broadcasting Service, that you own, recently did a piece where they allow the long-term unemployed to tell their own stories. 

You can read that here.

In case you'd rather not read the whole thing, I'm just going to post a few of the stories here.  They are stories of people who worked their entire lives, and in a stunning, sudden way, are losing everything.   


* * *

"My name is Rocco, and I too have been suffering from the loss of federal benefits. While my wife goes to work, I’ve been staying at home to conserve fuel. I’ve been losing weight from eating less, so my family has more on their plates. It feels like the government and big business expect more and more while trying to give back as little as possible. Soon my internet connection will be shut off and since most companies don’t offer paper applications, how will I find work then? Walking around for miles a day, asking for an application that may or may not be available?"

- Rocco, age 34


* * *

"I have never collected unemployment before, but it was necessary after an injury turned into long-term unpaid medical leave and sudden termination. I was one week into my first extension when the benefits ended. I have depleted my savings and retirement funds to keep this household afloat. We have eliminated every possible expense, but the necessities still must be paid: electricity, heat, car insurance, property taxes, food and medicine are all inflexible items that we can’t control.

"Now, the inability to pay these bills puts my family in jeopardy. If I was able to work I would. At 54, I am at my wits’ end."

- Beth, age 54


* * *

"I have been working and paying taxes since I was 14. I am now 46, and have been laid off of my job. The job market has been tough, and the employers seem to be looking for younger people to employ. I have always worked, and this is embarrassing to me to have to depend on my government for help. Now that I am in need, they have let me down.I would be homeless if not for my sister-in-law. I am staying in her basement, but have no funds for anything. I have sold all my belongings just to be able to afford to eat, and help with some of the bills. I’m at a loss for words."

- Anthony, age 46


* * *

Since losing my benefits we have exceeded borrowing from friends and family to keep us in our townhouse. I will be getting evicted come the first of March because we don’t have enough to cover it. I have gotten notices from the electric to be shut off. We are raising two grandchildren and can barely buy diapers. We did get food stamps for them but they have went from $301 to $125 due to government cuts.

"My husband only makes 10 dollars an hour and drives 30 miles round trip, so it’s taking all we have just to keep the Jeep filled with gas. We stopped going to church and all to save gas. We are homebodies now, afraid to use what gas we have. We save two kids from getting put in foster care just to be hit like this. It’s just a constant trap they try to keep you from receiving any help! I’m so disgusted when my 12-year-old asks me why we don’t have snacks anymore, or why are we eating so much rice, etc.

"It’s sad to be an American right now."

- Karen, age 50

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