May 27, 2010

Foreign Aid or Unemployment Benefits, Pick One

While perusing through the news this afternoon, I came across a brief update on today's quiet happenings on Capital Hill in Washington. Call me a cynic, but I actually wasn't surprised - angry, yes - surprised, no.

In the U.S. House of Representatives, congressmen debated the need to extend Unemployment Insurance yet again. Benefits for every American in the country who's been collecting unemployment for more than six months, will suddenly stop next week, with no extension in sight. The thought of ten or twenty million hard-working Americans suddenly with no income, zero, scares me to death. Desperate people do desperate things. Unemployment benefits aren't much, in some states only $100 or $200 a week, hardly enough to support a small family. But at least it provided the necessities, food, phone, school supplies and transportation to get to and from job interviews. While many Americans are getting tired of repeatedly extending Unemployment Benefits to the tens of millions of Americans who lost their jobs, most Americans will also concede that there just aren't any jobs out there yet. It's not like these providers don't WANT to work. It's just that 195,000 new jobs aren't enough to get 20 million people back to work.

At the end of the debate in the House of Representatives to extend unemployment today, Democratic leaders scrapped their plan to bring the extension to a vote. Unbelievably, they didn't have enough votes to move it to the next level. Apparently, the 'Blue Dog Democrats' who I usually agree with, switched over to the Republican's side and blocked any more extensions. "Instead" they said, "We need to focus on the national debt". Strange, I thought, considering the 'extension' would be funded by a tax increase on investment fund managers, oil companies and multinational conglomerates - the very same people that in my opinion and apparently many others, are single-handedly responsible for the massive number of unemployed Americans.

Across the Hill, over at the U.S. Senate, Democrats and Republicans debated a different bill. This bill covered foreign aid, plus a few other individual requests. As I read the brief list of things included in this massive spending bill, $60 billion in all, I couldn't help but wonder how a country that can't afford to pay unemployment benefits to its own citizens, could somehow spare the same amount of money to fund the needs of other countries' citizens. Included in the Senate bill were items such as - 30,000 additional troops to fight in Afghanistan, billions to 'replenish disaster aid accounts', more money for Haiti's disaster relief, and billions in foreign aid to anti-American countries in the Middle East to 'help in their fight against terror'. The 'test vote' for more foreign aid passed overwhelmingly in the Senate 69-29. Yet, at the same time, the bill to extend Unemployment Benefits in the House was shot down.

Don't get me wrong, I'm as much a sympathetic philanthropist as anyone. And I'm all in favor of eliminating terror, anger, sadness and all the other bad emotions. But in my opinion, a starving person shouldn't keep giving his last dollar away to strangers. He should buy himself something to eat, so he can live one more day. The U.S. Senate just voted to take the last dollar from tens of millions of starving Americans and give it to rich companies like Halliburton and oil-rich countries throughout the Middle East. Not only am I angry, but as I said earlier, I'm afraid. When Unemployment checks stop going out, America is going to be shocked, possibly even overthrown. Again, desperate people do desperate things. Tens of millions of desperate people don't just do desperate things, they do historically significant, world-altering things.

I might just be overreacting, but I might not be. If you think I'm being over dramatic, then tell me - what WILL happen when ten or twenty million Americans suddenly find themselves without a single penny of income, starving and homeless? So far, each person that thinks I'm overreacting has only answered my question with, "I don't know". Well, thanks to the way Congress voted today, we all may find out in the next two weeks.

Joe Six Pack and the Six Pack Posse

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