Friday, March 5, 2010

Politicians turn cruel

As a group, U.S. Senate Republicans willingly ladle out billions of dollars for Iraq and Afghanistan military operations without demanding budget offsets to pay for them, implausibly claiming that mainland U.S. security would be in jeopardy otherwise.

Yet, when extending unemployment benefits for millions of jobless Americans came to floor votes earlier this week, the GOP howl was familiar—comforting humans in distress is too expensive.

It's no surprise then that Idaho's two senators, Mike Crapo and Jim Risch, aligned themselves with 17 of the upper house's most distinguished right-wing obstructionists in voting against the emergency extension of jobless benefits, a conspicuously cruel minority in the final 78-19 vote.

Millions of Americans are out of work through no fault of their own. One could argue that the cascade of layoffs was trigged by Republican-led indifference to Wall Street regulations and war spending.

To put the Crapo-Risch let-them-eat-cake attitude toward jobless workers in perspective, Idaho has a 26-week limit on unemployment benefits, which range from $72 per week (equivalent to $1.80 per hour for a 40-hour worker) to $334 (equivalent to $8.35 per hour).

When state benefits are shut off, federal funds come into play. Sens. Crapo and Risch had no qualms about choking off the lifeline of families struggling with mortgages, food and clothing needs.

If Crapo and Risch despise a one-month emergency extension of help, a full reauthorization surely will be poison to them. Could their guaranteed $174,000 salaries plus perks make them unfeeling about the needy?

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