Christmas is over, the wrapping paper's in the trash, and the tree is looking a little tired. But trees and tinsel won't be the only things kicked to the curb in the next few days. As of December 28, 1.3 million long-term unemployed Americans will lose some or all of their already paltry benefits. They'll be followed by almost two million more in the first half of 2014, courtesy of Scrooges on Capitol Hill.
When the so-called budget compromise was reached just before Congress blew town in mid-December, the jobless got left out of the deal. After all, we had to take care of the war contractors like Lockheed, Raytheon, and Northrup to the tune of $22 billion. So when it came to extending unemployment payments for those out of work, Congress did what it usually does -- nothing.
Not all members wanted to play Scrooge of course - just some of the more prominent ones on the right side of aisle. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), who subscribes to the "lazy bum" theory, doesn't blame the lousy economy for high unemployment. Nope - the culprit is unemployment benefits. People raking in that fabulous $300 a week just don't want to give up their lives of luxury.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) says since a few people have found jobs, we don't need to help the ones who are still looking. And in a dazzling display of disconnect, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) declared the solution to joblessness is to "see if we can get them a job." Huh? Should Congress open an employment agency, or is he proposing a new WPA?
Never mind that there are nearly three unemployed people for every available job, and polls show the public is overwhelmingly in favor of extending help for their neighbors still out of work, even in heavily Republican districts.
To be sure, some Democrats are vowing to restore the benefits in the New Year to help those jobless folks still trying and still struggling. But with the Tea Party calling the tune, that sounds like more of a hope than a promise.
Pundits are saying this latest stinginess is probably going to hurt the Republican party next November if something isn't done in January. With the election 11 months away, that's cold comfort for people out of work. For them, it's going to be a very Unhappy New Year.
Listen to the two minute radio commentary here: