Paying It Forward.

Renewing the Emergency Unemployment Compensation bill would add $25.2 billion to the current federal budget. Right wing politicians and media outlets tell us that we can’t afford such “giveaways” unless they are offset by other spending cuts. Oddly, they have no such requirements for subsidies to defense contractors, the oil industry, the financial industry, big Pharma, corporate agriculture and other large interests.

But for a program that will prevent 1.3 million people from falling into the abyss? Teapublicans believe that cost needs to be offset!

Certainly saving $25.2 billion sounds good. But, in government, saving money always comes at a cost. In this case, it’s not difficult to imagine the human cost of taking away the only source of income for 1.3 million people…people who have been unemployed for six months or longer. People who are discriminated against by employers who think there must be something wrong with someone who has been unemployed for so long.

And there are other costs.

As journalist Bill Moyers reports, “Harvard economist Lawrence Katz estimates that the expiration of benefits for the long-term unemployed is costing the economy $1 billion per week.” Others estimate the cost to our economy at $400 million a week. Whichever figure is correct, that means the cost of extended unemployment benefits is already offset by what the program contributes to the economy.

Economists confirm that money spent on such programs goes directly into the economy. After all, what else are the long-term unemployed going to do with the money? Save it? Obviously, they spend it. They use it to pay for food, gasoline, utilities and other necessities. It’s not enough to allow them to live comfortably. But it helps. And that money stimulates other portions of the economy. It contributes to sales taxes. It contributes to the profits of local businesses which, in turn, pay income taxes on the money. As a result, the money finds its way back into federal, state and local governments as revenues.

It’s a win-win. It’s taxpayers paying it forward to help their struggling neighbors. Anyone who would say otherwise is cruel and heartless.

Oh wait! I just described today’s GOP.

A New Kind Of Pope.

Much has already been written about Pope Francis, but I can’t resist adding my two cents worth. For much of my life I found myself contrasting various religious leaders. The most remarkable contrast was between the Dahli Lama and Pope Benedict XVI.

Where the Dahli Lama sought to find the similarities of all religions, too often Pope Benedict focused on issues that divide. While the Dahli Lama dressed in the simple robes of a monk and eschewed the trappings of power and wealth, Pope Benedict seemed to embrace them. While the Dahli Lama displayed humility and humor, Pope Benedict too often allowed the Church to condemn those who strayed too far from his conservative viewpoint. Indeed, under Pope Benedict, the Vatican chastised a group of American nuns for placing too much focus on poverty and economic injustice, the core teachings of Christ.

Under the leadership of Pope Benedict, many bishops and priests felt comfortable engaging in partisan politics; some even threatening parishoners that they would “go to hell” if they voted for the wrong candidate. Worse yet, under Pope Benedict, several Archbishops continued to give cover to predatory pedophiles within the Church.

Enter Pope Francis.

Suddenly, we have a Pope who speaks for the poor and the downtrodden. In fact, he intentionally chose to be called Pope Francis in honor of the patron saint of the poor. This is a Pope who denounced runaway greed and economic inequality; who condemned the “idolatry of money;” who stated that the Church has spent too much time focused on social issues such as abortion and gay marriage; who even went so far as to say that atheists and non-Catholics would be redeemed by doing good. He has embraced the homeless and even washed the feet of prisoners. Pope Francis not only speaks about the principles of Christ. He follows them.

What a refreshing change!

I’m not Catholic, but I believe that our purpose in life should be to help others; to be kind. And I agree with author Thomas Cahill who said, “There are really only two movements in the world. One is kindness. And the other is cruelty.” Let’s all try to embrace the first.

For more insights into the “People’s Pope,” I encourage you to watch Bill Moyer’s interview with Cahill. I’m sure you will enjoy it.