Senate GOP Worried Jobless Are Too Funemployed To Go Work In COVID-19 Mines


Someone in Congress glanced at a calendar recently and noticed that the $600-a-week federal pandemic unemployment assistance starts running out for millions of Americans later this week. Now everyone's back at work to “hammer out the details" on a new bill.

Democrats passed a $3 trillion relief bill in May, and Republicans have countered with a $1 trillion package with fewer bells and whistles, like sufficient funds for food and shelter. Conservatives are very worried that the unemployed will get soft from all this easy COVID-19 living and never toil in the fields singing "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah" again. Senate Republicans want to reduce the $600 benefit because they heard rumors of unemployed people lighting cigars with $100 bills and copies of Action Comics No. 1.

South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, who we'd love to see unemployed, thinks the $600-a-week benefit is a “disincentive."

Graham: We're gonna have to reduce the benefit ... have a federal benefit but reduce it.

The unemployment rate is at Steinbeckian levels and confirmed COVID-19 cases are rising exponentially. People refusing to work isn't a concern. Graham wants “some compromise on the number that will make it easier to reopen the country." That's right. He wants the unemployed so desperate they'll still report for their shift at Applebee's despite surging cases that should've caused responsible governors to shut down their states again.

Georgia Senator David Perdue shares Graham's concerns. They're sharper than that pushover Scrooge, who started giving Bob Cratchit more coal for the fire so he wouldn't freeze to death. Warm fingers robbed Cratchit of the motivation to “find something new."

The White House, which doesn't support extending the pandemic benefit, is trying to negotiate a compromise with Congress but some Republicans vow to stall the bill's passage because they're stingy assholes.

Senator Rand Paul said Republicans “should be ashamed of themselves," and he's right in general, but there's nothing shameful specifically about recognizing the economic crisis facing Americans whose neighbors actually like them.

PAUL: This is insane ... There's no difference now between the two parties.

Settle down, Paul. Your party is still the one that let Trump skate on his impeachment charges. That will remain a viable distinction for generations to come. Paul went on to compare Republicans who support keeping Americans alive to “Bernie bros" because Paul is determined to compete with Senator Ted Cruz for Most Annoying Man Alive.

The House extended the $600 benefit through January, which is the least Congress should do as I doubt we'll be below double digit unemployment by then. Moderate Democrats prefer a plan that would tie the benefits to a state's economic conditions. That's the nice middle ground moderates propose that doesn't help the poor much while still only gaining an extended middle finger from Republicans. Florida Senator Rick Scott thinks it's “unfair" for his state's taxpayers to “bail out" New Yorkers because he's a conservative so has no idea how a “society" works. He also has forgotten how often the nation's taxpayers have aided Florida after hurricanes and also just in life.

Stephen Moore, the off-the-books White House economics adviser, said Tuesday that the benefit is “bad economics" and “unfair" to people who are still working. Yes, he said it's “unfair" that someone still has a job and likely health insurance during a devastating pandemic. Like Mitch McConnell and other Republicans, he supports a “direct payment," which sounds nice but is a pittance compared to the weekly benefit. Moore also thinks the unemployed can make do with $200 instead of the $600 they were using to fill their bathtubs with caviar.

Money has not rained from the heavens on the struggling, the impoverished, and the just plain frightened. The extension of benefits to those who need them most has been shamefully inept, especially in states such as Florida, where Scott as governor sank millions into a Commodore 64-powered system. Gaining access to their unemployment benefits is a worse slog than any tedious, labor intensive job.

The Washington Post described the bleak scene in Oklahoma, where the unemployment rate hit a record 14.7 percent in April. The state was already one of the poorest in the nation, and residents have emptied their savings, sold their homes for cash, and watched the repo man take their cars.

Even though the unemployment rate dropped to 6.6 percent in June, the backlog has created unprecedented delays. Oklahoma had approved 235,000 of about 590,000 filed claims by June 21 — a total $2.4 billion payout, far more than in previous years. About 6,000 state claims are pending.

People camp out in the parking lot of the River Spirit Expo center in Tulsa, the city where Trump recently hosted a superspreader event in his honor. They wait in a Great Depression-esque bread line for the chance to speak with a state agent.

Ashley Love, 31, a former customer advocate for Enterprise Rent-A-Car, had risen at 4 a.m. to take her 2-year-old daughter to her mother's home before heading to the convention center, only to be told she had to come back the next day. She was laid off in March, when the pandemic nearly obliterated the travel industry. Her benefits inexplicably stopped four weeks ago, the agency website saying only she was on a "verification hold."

"It's appalling, I don't understand how they can do this to people," Love said. "One day, I called 15 times in two hours, and they either don't answer or take your calls and hang up on you."

All this happens while Trump's droogies invade American cities so the president can flex his “law and order" muscle. He cares more about the dignity of statues and federal buildings than the dignity of suffering people. Meanwhile, heartless ghouls who have so much obsess over whether those with so little are making out like thieves.

[ABC News/ Chicago Tribune / News Tribune /Washington Post]

Stephen Robinson on Twitter.

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Stephen Robinson

Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes reviews for the A.V. Club and make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."


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