Still Holding the Jobless Hostage

The jobless are stuck between presidential apathy and conservative stonewalling.

Republican Party Cartoons 161
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Nearly two months have passed since the emergency unemployment extension expired. Two months of presidential apathy, right-wing recalcitrance and an increasing number of the long-term jobless walking around with moth-infested wallets.

President Obama asked Congress to renew the program during his State of the Union address. The first lady sat with Illinois resident Misty DeMars, who wrote the president about her plight, and several Democrats brought jobless constituents as guests, all efforts meant to humanize the issue.

Alas, these were empty gestures. The president now speaks little of the extension.

[Check out our editorial cartoons on President Obama.]

But this is no real surprise. Obama often drops the ball five minutes after kickoff, or in this case five minutes before. But his apathy is only about as half as bad as they way conservatives treat the issue. Senate Republicans filibustered the bill twice, and the House caucus refuses to consider it. Most of the GOP did so to propitiate Heritage Action for America, a political action committee that disingenuously opposes the extension because it doesn’t include offsetting spending cuts.

Conservatives talk about lowering the deficit, but they don’t walk the talk. Yes, they want to eliminate social programs, but instead of cutting big-ticket pork, they salt it with money. When the F-35 Lightning II Jet Fighter program came up for discussion during markup for the National Defense Authorization Act last month, which U.S. News' Pat Garofalo wrote about, Republicans on the Armed Services Committee kept this boondoggle in the black. No one admitted that it’s over budget, behind schedule, will cost taxpayers $1.5 trillion and is plagued with major safety and performance issues. It flies like an epileptic "Flappy Bird.”  One would assume that if conservatives believe government should work in America’s best interest, they would understand the concept of a wise investment.

[See a collection of political cartoons on the Republican Party.]

The job market is mediocre. The economy added only 113,000 jobs in January. IBM is expected to soon lay off 14,000 workers, while JP Morgan is planning to cut 8,000 more. Many companies are also reducing their temporary workforces. There are plenty of ways to pay for this bill. This is not the time to let conservatives hold emergency unemployment extension hostage.