A synopsis is a brief summary or general survey of something, and if one looked back from the bipartisan budget deal up until Senate Republicans blocked an unemployment benefit extension on Tuesday and Wednesday, the result would be a synopsis of every Republican tactic over the past five years to hurt Americans and obstruct the economy. Shortly after the bipartisan budget deal was announced and it was clear there was no provision to extend unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed, it was obvious to this column that Republicans would not extend the benefits. In fact, yesterday Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said “this has obviously been fixed to guarantee that you get no outcome,” and it was fixed before the budget agreement was announced as a “victory” for Washington and America on December 10th 2013.
Insiders reported that Democrats tried to get unemployment benefits extended for 1.3 million unemployed Americans in the bipartisan budget deal, but Republicans led by Paul Ryan said no. At the time the big Republican lie was a promise they would take up and address the issue early in 2014, but they never intended to address extending benefits unless Democrats found funding and delayed implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Last week, six Republicans said they supported “consideration” of a 3-month extension of benefits, though most of them said they could only consider an extension and that they would only vote for legislation if it were paid for. Harry Reid and Democrats found funding for the extension for eleven months, but Republicans still said no and it gave credence to Reid’s words that “this has obviously been fixed to guarantee that you get no outcome.” It was always fixed to guarantee there would be no outcome, and it is why Democratic negotiators failed the people when they believed Republicans during the budget talks.
Republicans also exposed their penchant for double standards in requiring the extension be paid for. When George W. Bush was president, unemployment benefits were extended five times with “no strings attached any of those times.” It reveals another typical Republican tactic since 2011 that some observers predicted would occur when Republicans said they would address the UI issue in 2014; demand funding and a hostage payment. It is a case of Republicans punishing Americans for re-electing an African American because when a white Republican was president, they made sure their out-of-work constituents were saved from falling into poverty. Republicans have amassed quite a double-standard record of holding a Black man occupying the Oval Office to different standards than just over five years ago when Bush, a white Republican, was president. Republicans still claim their tactics are not driven by racial animus and bristle at the mere suggestion, but it is clearly their motivation for their obstructionism.
The GOP is also typically punishing its own constituents in primarily Southern states such as Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee and Kentucky where the long-term jobless rate is significantly higher when compared to the rest of the nation. Of sixteen senators representing the eight Southern states, fourteen are Republicans with one Democrat each from North Carolina and Florida. Many of the fourteen Republicans were already on record against an extension despite aggressive local news coverage and polls showing substantial bipartisan support for extending the emergency benefits. However, Republicans in Southern states have little to fear from voters who reliably vote against their own self-interests and make no mistake, Republicans who voted against an extension are hurting their constituents and their home state economies as much as voters in blue states. Democrats estimated that the economy lost $400 million in activity in the first week without benefits, but Harvard economist Lawrence Katz put the number at $1 billion. Over the course of a year the adverse effects on the economies in states where more people are missing benefit checks, many of which are deep red, will be catastrophic and still, they will re-elect Republicans because they promise to oppose everything the Black man in the White House supports.
Like everything Republicans have done over the past three years, blocking an extension for unemployment benefits is meant to cause the most damage to the greatest number of Americans possible. The CBO already warned that failure to extend benefits will effectively kill at least 200,000 jobs due to reduced consumer spending, and it gives the GOP the value-added benefit of adding 200,000 Americans to the unemployment rolls. As of December 28th Republicans added 1.3 million more Americans to poverty rolls, but that number is deceiving and does not begin to accurately expose the Republican damage to the population and the economy.
When benefits began running out on December 28, the immediate number of Americans affected was 1.3 million, but that number rises to 3.2 million through June 2014 and balloons to nearly 5 million by the end of the year according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP). The most encouraging news for Republicans is that within the initial 1.3 million Americans losing their lifeline, there are 2.3 million children that may finally elevate America to first place as the nation with the highest percentage of children living in poverty in the developed world. As the numbers increase over the course of the year, 200,000 jobs lost becomes 740,000, and 2.3 million children becomes 8.5 million new children living in poverty.
By blocking the extension efforts in the Senate, Republicans maintained their record of eschewing the will of the people for the blessings of their wealthy paymasters who gave Republicans on the fence the impetus to vote against extending benefits. Like the Heritage Foundation, NRA, and Americans for Prosperity, the conservative Club For Growth warned all senators to vote no and reminded Republicans that they were keeping a “scorecard” with a comprehensive rating of how well, or how poorly, each member of Congress supported pro-growth, free-market policies that would be distributed to their members and to the public. It is unclear how killing more jobs, sending millions into poverty, and harming the economy is pro-growth and supporting free-market policies, but there is no accounting for the mindset of 21st century extremist conservatives. For the record, pro-growth, free-market policies are favorite Koch brother terms for a transformed America controlled by rich industrialists with free rein to conduct business without restrictive labor laws, taxes, and regulations that are the Republicans’ solution to ending poverty.
The dastardly plot to eliminate the life-line for millions of Americans struggling to find work in the Republican-obstructed economy began during the bi-cameral budget negotiations months ago. Throughout the process and leading up to votes in the Senate, Republicans employed their tried-and-true tactics of lying, demanding a hostage payment, and moving the goalposts, and the effects on the people and the economy follow a pattern Republicans perfected over the past three years. They are on pace to kill hundreds and hundreds-of-thousands of jobs, send millions of Americans and their children into poverty, and lay waste to the economy at the national and state level; then they are going on vacation next week. It is the perfect summary of Republican malfeasance that obstructed economic recovery and devastated the people over the past three years all wrapped up in the span of two short months.
Audio engineer and instructor for SAE. Writes op/ed commentary supporting Secular Humanist causes, and exposing suppression of women, the poor, and minorities. An advocate for freedom of religion and particularly, freedom of NO religion.
Born in the South, raised in the Mid-West and California for a well-rounded view of America; it doesn’t look good.
Former minister, lifelong musician, Mahayana Zen-Buddhist.