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Shame on All of You for Hurting the Least of These Again

So, Congress is letting unemployment benefits expire for many thousands of Americans just because they cannot work together for the public good?  And our President cannot even step in and step up to protect these most vulnerable citizens during this recession?  Shame.  Shame on the whole lot of them.

From MSNBC today:

"Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) criticized Republicans Sunday for blocking unemployment benefits, which will expire Monday while Congress is out of session," The Hill reports. Reid issued a statement saying that Republicans making 'excuses' for stalling the benefits package and are hurting the unemployed. 'Families in Nevada and across America are struggling to make ends meet, and many are relying on unemployment insurance and health benefits as they look to find work,' he said. 'It is inexcusable and irresponsible for Republicans to once again block the extension of these benefits. Their excuses ring hollow to American workers who lost their jobs through no fault of their own and are trying to put food on the table, pay the rent, and take their children to the doctors.'"

The Republicans were angry about the passage of the lame health insurance recovery act (also known as healthcare reform bill) so they saw fit to block the extension of unemployment benefits in order to punish the Democrats.  Really?  Who got punished?  And the Dems are blaming the Repubs for the ending of the benefits even though they were so busy getting out of town for their own spring recess that they left Washington just complaining about it and not demanding some other way to get the extension approved so that millions of people would not suffer.  So much for the Dems really caring about these families.

The President had some pretty important Easter plans following the health bill signing celebration, so he couldn't possibly take a pro-active stand to demand a fix for the lost money, could he?

So, during this most holy of weeks for many, our government officials saw fit to take their recess and let the unemployed whose benefits were expiring today just suffer.

Do they know what it's like to have that unemployment check not arrive?  Already much less income than one gets when working, the benefits are sometimes just enough to prevent folks from qualifying for other government help but not enough to really afford payment of all the bills.  Being on unemployment is no picnic but it is better than nothing.

I recall weeks when those unemployment checks were the difference between buying a child's asthma inhaler and not being able to do so.  And I suspect that thousands of families are facing just those kinds of decisions this week as their benefit checks will not arrive.  Would they like watching their children wheeze and gasp for air?  Would they want their utilities cut off or to see an eviction notice posted on the door.   The pharmacist and the landlord, the tax collector and the utility companies don't really give a damn whether the Republicans were punishing the Democrats by cutting benefits - the bill collectors want their bills paid.  On time.  No wiggle room.

Cutting off unemployment benefits during this time is causing great harm.  It isn't just about not being able to have a spring holiday or a new iPad, it's about having groceries and a roof over one's head.  I know we all understand clearly after the healthcare debate that precious few of our elected officials really believe healthcare is a human right for all persons, but now it should be abundantly clear that they also have nearly total disregard for the suffering resulting from their failure to protect most human rights in this nation.

Cruel and unusual punishment is forbidden by the Constitution, but not by this Congress and not by this President.  I am angry with them all for not being in the least bit courageous or creative in finding a way around and through their differences that did not harm the people they are elected to represent.  Shame on you all.  And may you never know what it is to have such cruelty thrown your way by people who pretend they care. Restore the benefits, by whatever means necessary, before more people suffer.  Just because you are on recess doesn't mean you can hide from your responsibilities.  The people who elected you sure can't.  Get it done.

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Donna Smith

Donna Smith
Donna Smith Donna Smith is the national chair of the Healthcare Not Warfare campaign for Progressive Democrats of America.  She was featured in Michael Moore’s 2007 documentary, SiCKO.

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