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.

Stone Cold GOP.

I can think of no better way to describe Teapublicans’ failure to extend benefits for the 1.3 million long-term unemployed. After all, these are people who, through no fault of their own, are hanging on by their fingernails. Instead of offering them a hand, Teapublicans seem unwilling to give them anything but some nail clippers.

Nevertheless, Democrats have refused to give up on the unemployed. Not only have they called for an extension of benefits, they have pushed numerous bills that would result in job creation. In response, Teapublicans not only refused to act. They demanded more cuts which, according to most economists, would result in even more unemployed. Worse, as the benefits were expiring, Teapublicans took to the airwaves to blame the victims for their plight and to call them moochers!

By contrast, Democratic Senator Chris Murphy spent a day with the homeless in order to better understand their situation. His “guide” was a homeless man who had overcome a difficult childhood with a drug-addicted father. Having worked many years in sales, he lost his job and his home. He now spends his days looking for work and just trying to survive.

Such stories are not uncommon.

Very few of the homeless are lazy layabouts. Many are addicted or mentally ill. And many others are ordinary people who worked hard, played by the rules and found themselves in financial trouble after losing their jobs or encountering medical problems that they couldn’t afford…often despite having insurance.

For example, one of my friends contracted throat cancer resulting in laryngectomy (removal of the voice box) and causing him to lose his job as a telemarketer. That, in turn, caused him to lose his home. An Army veteran, he was too proud to accept offers to stay in friends’ homes. Instead, he survived by showering and changing clothes at the YMCA, using computers at the public library to apply for jobs, reading, visiting the offices of friends, and riding the buses at night. (The bus became his bedroom.) Once a month, he treated himself to a room at a inexpensive motel. His only source of income was a small (very small) check for a military disability. He wasn’t even eligible for SSI.

My friend despised the stench, noise and prostelityzing of church-sponsored shelters. He thought homeless camps were dangerous. So he lived this way for more than a year before he finally received additional disability compensation from the VA.

Tell me, Teapublicans, exactly what made my friend a moocher? What made him so undeserving in your minds that you would deny him, and people like him, unemployment benefits or other forms of help? What would you have him do? He couldn’t ask for job interviews over the phone. He had no phone, anyway. He couldn’t apply in person. As a black man with no ability to speak, most of those he encountered turned away from him. If he handed them a note, they assumed he was trying to rob them!

Aside from his few friends, the only people who would engage him were children. They were fascinated with his stoma (the hole where his larynx used to be) and with the electrolarnyx (the electronic wand that can be used to produce a robotic-like voice).

My friend’s story was worse than most (he has since passed away), but the point is the same. Most of the people who are now without unemployment benefits have similar stories. And Teapublicans seem to think they are disposable.