This photograph, taken by Margaret Bourke-White, in 1937,
clearly illustrates the contrast between people on the breadline and the “World’s Highest Standard of Living”
This photograph could just as easily be the line at the Unemployment Office in 2014 as it was the soup kitchen lines in 1937
Today, in the Senate of the United States of America, they have failed to pass an extension to Unemployment Benefits.
I am going to discuss this rationally, and simply, because I feel that this is the height of hypocrisy and it is shameful. (Not that this Congress hasn’t acted shamefully before.)
The Republican party touts itself as the party of Family Values. Families are generally made up of one or more adults and one or more children. Many politicians have gone on record as stating that children are our future and are of primary importance.
Last week we heard a congressman say that we are doing unemployed workers a favor by not extending their Unemployment Benefits. I am sure that the millions of people, citizens of the United States, who are out of work are really thrilled and thank Congress immensely for giving them the opportunity to have their houses foreclosed on, their cars repossessed, and to look their children in the eye and say: “I’m sorry, I don’t have a job because the economy collapsed, there are no jobs available near us, and my unemployment benefits have been cut. You are going to be hungry when you go to bed at night and when you go to school in the morning. But don’t worry, Congress says this makes us better human beings.”
Let’s discuss children in America. We have more children living in poverty than any other First World country. We have children who are going to school and who are functionally illiterate.
Every year at Christmas time, this “Christian” nation has organizations and churches which do fundraising and drives for food, toys and coats and mittens and hats for the millions of children living in poverty. The people who are unemployed are not undeserving of a helping hand to get their lives back in order. Since the economic crash in 2008, many people have spent some time unemployed. We have historically gone through the worst financial crisis to hit our country since the Great Depression. Yet Republicans in Congress insist that extending Unemployment Benefits will prevent Americans from getting new jobs, because they don’t have the incentive to work.
Get a new job? From where? It isn’t as if there are millions of open jobs and Help Wanted signs in every window. Few companies are hiring and fewer still will hire someone who is untrained and largely uneducated.
You want to help, Congress? How about providing money for schools and training programs where adults can learn new skills and create new careers for themselves and feel hopeful once again about the future for themselves and their children, so they are actually more qualified for one of the rare available jobs.
It appears to me that the Republicans are speaking out of both sides of their mouths. They say that Family and Family Values are important to them as a politician and a member of the United States Congress, but they won’t provide these families with the support they need. If you don’t walk your talk, it means nothing.
Members of Congress are not going home to crying, hungry children. I think it would be a good experience for them to spend a month of their recess visiting America’s poorest families, rather than campaigning with their rich friends and supporters. Congressmen and women should have to talk face to face with these unemployed Americans, and explain to the parents and the children why leaving them without income and without jobs is “doing them a favor”.
I think they should see children inadequately dressed for the weather, walking to school because their school district has cut bussing. They should have to watch these children walk out of the house, wearing a thin, worn sweater on and no coat, because they have none, and sneakers but no boots because they don’t own a pair. Send these children off through the snow and the wind with the sure knowledge that they are important to the 2014 Congress. I’m sure the knowledge of how important Family is to Congress will be enough to keep them warm, and the certainty that Congress is preventing their ‘lazy’ parents from taking advantage of the system will help them to learn if they can hear the teacher over the rumblings of their stomachs.
Unemployment benefits do not allow a family to live high on the hog. Unemployment benefits do not allow the unemployed to live as our elected officials do, and the benefits barely keep the roof over a family’s head and food on the table.
It’s not the Unemployed that is lazy and unwilling, it’s Congress, and I say to Congress now:
Get the Unemployment Benefits Extension passed in a clean bill, without having to be bribed with pork for your vote.
In closing, I don’t want to hear a single congressperson talk about Family Values in America; I want you to stop talking and get into action. Make American Families a priority in their own country.