Now that Thanksgiving and Turkey day are over, we begin the Lame Duck session in Congress on November 29. I don’t know why it’s called the Lame Duck session. We don’t need our Congress to act lame or like idiots, quacking like a duck. I understand it’s considered a period when little will be done, due to the change in party leadership in 2011. The Lame Duck session, in actuality, began before Thanksgiving when Congress refused to pass a bill to extend emergency unemployment benefits beyond November 30. States provide unemployment benefits for 26 weeks. Historically, Congress has provided for additional weeks of benefits during high recession periods. Congress had given an additional 73 weeks of unemployment benefits due to the present dire unemployment statistics. It affects several million persons.
You don’t have to be unemployed to understand the need for the extension of unemployment benefits bill. But with so many millionaires in Congress, perhaps having a little empathy would be helpful. Half of Congress or 261 members are millionaires according to a recent study by the Center for Responsive Studies. Here’s where the Wizard of Oz would be helpful. Aside from Dorothy and Toto, the other characters in the Wizard of Oz were the scare crow, lion and tin man. The scare crow needed a brain; the lion needed courage and the tin man needed a heart. Those are the same 3 characteristics that are missing from Congress today. I don’t know if a wizard will help Congress find these traits.
Congress bailed out Wall Street, banks, Chrysler, General Motors, Fannie Mae and other failing corporate entities. Why won’t Congress bail out the unemployed now? Republicans want to continue tax credits for the rich and those making over $250,000 yet refuse to vote in favor of extending unemployment emergency benefits to those who need it the most. Where is the justice in this thinking?
Unemployment affects blacks, whites, Asians, Latinos, gays, straight, women and men. No one is exempt from being unemployed. It only takes your boss or employer to tap you on the shoulder and hand you a pink slip saying “you’re fired”. It affects a whooping 30.4% in El Centro, CA, 9 other California areas with over 15% unemployment, 11% in Michigan, small towns in Iowa and the formerly rich technology suburbs of California. With overall unemployment hovering at 9.6 % and with unemployment among African Americans over 16%, what further information does Congress need to pass the emergency unemployment extension? Many people are just trying to keep a roof over their head and food on their table. More people are going hungry today than ever before. Food kitchens are over flowing with persons needing help. It was a no brainer to extend the emergency unemployment deadline.
So, my hope for Congress is a brain, a heart and courage to do the right thing by all Americans.
Debbie Hines, Esq. is a legal/political commentator. She also blogs for the Huffington Post. She holds a Juris Doctorate degree from George Washington University Law School and a BA from the University of Pennsylvania.