Wednesday, December 1, 2010
Unemployment Diary: My "Quiet Conversation" with My Senator's Aide
"Are you familiar with it?" the nice young man asked.
"I am. And I know about the idiot Republican Senator who's holding up the vote for no good reason."
He laughed. "Okay, so will you talk to your Senator's office? I'll patch you through."
"Sure. And I won't call anyone an idiot. That was wrong for me to say."
A young man at Senator Saxby Chambliss's office answered the phone and I gave my unrehearsed spiel about START. And then...
"Say, while I have you on the phone, will you please pass on to the Senator that I hope he will vote to extend unemployment benefits, including those for the people who've already been cut off, the 99ers."
"I'm still here."
I quickly went through the list of why those extensions should be made. I noted that this isn't about buying holiday gifts. This is about survival. It's about mortgages and rent, groceries, electricity, water, heat and gasoline to get my husband to his job and paying off his student loans. I also noted that I understood that the Senator wanted the extension to be paid for, to not add to the deficit, meanwhile he supports income tax cuts for people who make over a million dollars, not from work wages but from the earnings from their existing money. Because that's not paid for, was never paid for and has already added significantly to the deficit and will add far more to the budget deficit than the unemployment extensions will.
"And those tax cuts haven't created a single job. Those kinds of cuts don't create jobs. They're personal income taxes. People don't make hiring decisions based on taxes, especially those kinds of taxes. The proof is here - we're living it. Those tax cuts have existed for ten years and they've not created jobs...."
"Hello? Are you still there?" I asked.
"Okay. Well, thank you for passing that on. I appreciate your time. Do you need my name?"
"I have your phone number."
He hung up. Maybe he was having a bad day. As a federal worker, he's probably not going to get a raise for the next two years. I should have been more sensitive. (Pssst. I am not suggesting that legislative staffers are overpaid. I really don't think they are. My socialist self is for the workers - people who earn their wages through work.)
Wow. Okay. So my confidence in the knowledge that my Congressional representatives are working for me is totally on the upswing. Totally.
Sophie, who was home sick, had listened as I spoke. "What did they say?" she asked.
"Will he tell the Senator what you said?"
"Of course not."
She furrowed her brow. "So why did you say that stuff?"
"Because if I don't, I'm part of the problem."
She shook her head and turned back to the TV.
Benefits end today for lots of people, including me. Millions of others have already been living without any benefits for months. The current official unemployment rate is at 9.6 percent. Never before in our history has Congress cut off extensions when unemployment was above 7.2 percent. And the sad reality is that when you include all those people who are no longer counted in the unemployment numbers because they've stopped looking, stopped receiving benefits or are working part time when what they really need is full-time work with a living wage, the true unemployment rate is between 17 and 20 percent.
I keep hearing this line - will 10 percent unemployment become the New Normal? Do you have any idea what that means in real numbers for our economy? As DCap points out, it's demand that creates jobs. If people don't have money to spend, demand decreases. The less demand there is, the fewer workers are needed. The cycle goes on.
So now people like me wait and wake up at 3a.m. to pee and fret about how we're going to manage while we serve as human political pawns in a game of partisan chicken.
I was calm and measured when I spoke to Chambliss's rude young staffer even though I was pretty fired up after listening to retiring Rep. John Shadegg (R-AZ) tell Joe Scarborough that the unemployed don't need those extensions because the unemployed "aren't job creators" and that they don't contribute to the economy because they spend "as little as possible" of those government checks. They're "holding onto that money."
Even Joe Scarborough was stunned by Shadegg's statements. Scarborough was especially wide-eyed incredulous when Shadegg insisted that the tax cuts for the wealthy do in fact create jobs because they need butlers and gardeners and maids.
Wow again. So maybe I should keep losing weight so I look fantastic in a French maid's uniform, I can get a job on the staff of some uberwealthy's fourth house on the French Riviera. Win/Win!!! I can use my wickedly amazing housekeeping skills and spend my days off on the rocky Mediterranean beaches sunning my DDs. This time I'll remember to wear sunscreen. The first and last time I sunbathed topless in Nice, I sunburned my nipples. Ouchy.
As I related the conversation between myself and Chambliss's office to MathMan last night after he got home at 9:20 because his second coaching job runs late into the evening and then told him about what Shadegg had said about the unemployed, I finished with the cliched "How do these people sleep at night?"
"Wait, never mind. I know the answer," I said as I put a pot of beans on the stove and turned on the gas. "They sleep on extremely high count cotton, organic sheets on plush mattresses that cost as much as all our furniture combined."