Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

WI Rs dither over Unemployment Benefits Extension . . . while National Rs Continue their Do-Nothing Ways

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Folks, again I have two topics for discussion.

First, the Wisconsin Republicans have acted up again, refusing to pass a bill to extend unemployment benefits — or, rather, refusing to pass the same, exact bill.  The Republican-controlled Assembly passed a bill that requires a one-week wait for unemployment benefits (a one-week, unpaid wait, at that), while the Republican-controlled state Senate passed a bill that did not require a wait and passed that decisively, 30-3 in an unusual bipartisan vote.

As the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s headline put it, “Dispute on Jobless Benefits Puts Unemployed in a Bind.”  A relevant quote from the article:

Republicans who control the Senate and Assembly agree they should accept the federal money to allow the unemployed to collect benefits for an extra 13 weeks – in part because that won’t hurt the state’s struggling unemployment insurance fund. But the two houses cannot agree on whether to make laid-off workers wait a week for their initial benefits – a move that would save the fund money.

The main problem is, some in the Assembly believe it will take months to resolve this issue — months, when some Wisconsinites have been out of unemployment since April 16, 2011!  As stated in this article:

“It’s not something we’re going to leave hanging out there,” said Andrew Welhouse, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau). “It’s just trying to come to the right answer. We all understand the stakes here.”

The senator’s brother, Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald (R-Horicon), has said he wants to fix the problem soon, but added that lawmakers might not be able to do it until September.

As you see — it’s July 22, 2011, right now as it’s just clicked over to midnight as I write this.  Not doing anything until September would indeed take months, at a time when even Republican Gov. Scott  Walker admits that unemployment rates are too high in parts of the state (including my own Racine, WI).

I’m sorry; I agree fully with Senate Minority Leader Mark Miller (D-Monona), who said this:

“It is due to incredible incompetence or coldhearted calculation that we are delaying passage of this bill . . . It’s time we recognized that the workers in Wisconsin that have lost their jobs are not toys to be played with,” Senate Minority Leader Mark Miller (D-Monona) said.

Miller is exactly right.  He knows what happened here; the Senate Rs, six of them facing impending recall elections, voted to say they want unemployment extensions done right now and not to wait a week before any worker receives benefits, either — partly because they are facing recall, and this looks good for them.  But the Senate Rs knew full well that the Assembly Rs wouldn’t play ball here; none of them are facing recall (they aren’t eligible for recall until January of ’12), and they don’t seem to be very concerned about the possibility of a recall election, either, as normally their seats would be up at the end of ’12 anyway.

So what the Senate Rs did is this — they figured they’d “have their cake and eat it, too.”  They did this in order to look compassionate, but their real beliefs are probably in line with the Assembly Rs, who aren’t budging and won’t budge, even though many people in Wisconsin haven’t had any unemployment since April 16 of this year and won’t get any until this bill is finally passed.

As of now, the Senate will have to take it up again next Tuesday, July 26, 2011.  They may well not do anything other than affirm their same bill; this will once again allow themselves to look good, while knowing that the Wisconsin unemployed workers remain shut out of the decisions . . . remember, unemployment insurance is not welfare.  It is our right, as workers, as we’ve paid into it and deserve to be able to tap into it when times are very hard and bad (as they are now).

I implore the Wisconsin Legislature, Rs and Ds alike, to do the right thing here.  Pass the unemployment benefits extension now.  Worry about the one-week cut later.

As for anything else, the national Rs also do not impress me with their willingness to work together toward anything.  The deficit talks remain stalled out, with word tonight according to Ed Schultz at MSNBC and Keith Olbermann of Current TV that President Obama has met with both Rs and Ds and wants his “Grand Bargain” to take place.

Don’t know about the “Grand Bargain” yet?  Well, it’s simple — it would cut the deficit by cutting three essential social programs, Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security in exchange perhaps for some tax revenue (maybe by raising taxes on the top 1% of the country, maybe by closing tax loopholes).  Yet Social Security is running at a surplus — any short-term “deficit” there is because the Congress keeps raiding the “lock-box,” nothing more — and while I support an end to waste, fraud and abuse in Medicaid and Medicare (including disallowing really expensive medicine — something that costs over $500 monthly and will not add any life expectancy to a cancer victim, say — unless that expensive medicine actually helps to restore life and health to someone so that person can re-enter the work force after his/her health crisis has been taken care of), I do not support any other changes to these essential programs.

Basically, there are now three groups of people in Washington, DC.  Those who will work with others in both parties.  Those who will work with others in their own party only.  And those who won’t work with anyone, period, because they think raising the debt ceiling is morally wrong.  

While I have some sympathy, emotionally anyway, for this last group, no one has ever been sent to Washington, DC, to completely obstruct the process of governing.  Instead, they’re sent to work and make the best deals they can, so refusing to do so is pointless and absurd, not to mention a waste of taxpayer money.  Because last I checked, it’s the taxpayers — i.e., all of us — who pay the salaries of the House of Reps.

So what we have here isn’t just a “failure to communicate,” as the movie actress once said.  It’s a failure to even understand what communication is, much less do anything about it.

And all the while, the United States of America’s credit rating starts to slip . . . people start to worry about losing their jobs (for example, much of the Federal Aviation Administration is being held up due to similar problems and they could end up “furloughed” — meaning they don’t get paid — as early as Saturday) . . . fewer people work, meaning the tax base gets lower overall, meaning the deficit increases.  All very, very bad things.

President Obama, by putting Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid on the table for discussion, has caused some of the Rs — those willing to work at compromise — to salivate at the bit.  But as President, Mr. Obama is supposed to be working on behalf of all Americans, including the least among us.  Those who are ill.  Those who are helpless.  Those who are on fixed incomes, such as those on Social Security who have nothing else.  Not only for the needs of the wealthy, none of those likely to need those three programs.

I stand with Ed Schultz and Keith Olbermann tonight (among others), who wonder what this Democratic President is doing by even thinking about cutting these essential programs.  Because it’s just not right to kick anyone when they’re down . . . not the poor, not the disabled, not the helpless, not anyone. 

And that’s all cuts to those three programs will do.  Hurt those who cannot help themselves.

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One Response

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  1. Enjoyed reading this, very good stuff, thankyou .

    Cathrine Weightman

    July 22, 2011 at 4:22 pm


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