I've watched the political debate over the worthiness (the Republicans call it worthlessness) of the unemployed American workers whose benefits are ending.
My husband lost his job in the fall of 2008, and we went onto unemployment. I remember his face, ashen white, his lips pinched, as he gave me the "throat slash" gesture with the phone to his ear, while his employer told him that due to the economy, his services were no longer required.
Why my heart leaped with the prospects!
"Finally, Mark, we can soak the system we've been paying into for so many years. It's payback time, baby! Uncle Sam is going to put us into a sedan chair and carry us around town. Pop the champagne!"
Not. So. Much.
Champagne? When you're on unemployment, you can't afford the "Champagne of beers," (for those of you old enough to remember the old Miller High Life slogan.)
Mark qualified for the highest dollar amount available in Connecticut. If you totaled it up for a year, you got what I was making at BBN Software in Cambridge, MA as an Advertising Manager in 1986. The entire month of unemployment didn't cover the rent we were paying on a small, three bedroom ranch.
You know what happens when you are on unemployment? You go further into debt as you try to stretch that check as far as you can to cover your bills and food for your kids. Your credit card minimums start inching up each month. Your blood pressure follows. You live with a cool cloth slapped against your forehead to mop up the sweat pouring off your brow -- even if it's February.
You're scared to death. You know you may never catch up and get back to that rung on the ladder where you had a few bucks in your pocket and could look your wife, husband or kids in the eye when they asked if they could go to a movie, or to The Olive Garden. You might fall off the ladder altogether.
For Republicans to band en masse against Americans and deny benefit extension while even thinking about extending an unfunded tax break to our wealthiest citizens is cruel. And it is politics at its worst.
Next time you're in the Piggly Wiggly or Stop & Shop, take a moment to really look at the faces of the shoppers around you. I'll bet they look a lot like you. Except their faces may be ashen white, their lips pinched as they pick up, and put down, a pound of hamburger, instead, going to the pasta aisle for a $.99 box of spaghetti. Again. And wondering what they'll eat when $.99 is more than they have in their pocket.