Weekend Assignment #330: Op-Ed
Time to flex your writing muscle again, because for this week only, the Weekend Assignment blog is being changed to The Weekend Assignment Chronicle! Now, we need some Op-Eds to make things a little more interesting around here. Your assignment is to pick a current event and write your opinion regarding it. Anything goes. Write about politics, the economy, or maybe even your opinion about an incident in pop culture. It's all good. It's good to exchange opinions, especially when it's done with respect. So, feel free to speak up here!
Extra Credit: Do you read the Op-Eds? Yes? No? Tell us about it!
As someone who has been unable to find full-time, permanent work as an accountant since the third economy-devastated industry I worked in laid me off over two years ago, and as someone who manages the finances of a disabled woman who lives on Social Security and food stamps, I'm frustrated with pretty much all levels of government right now. Congress is reducing food stamps, squeezing our poorest people on the grounds that the government can't afford to help them, and besides, maybe they're just lazy and don't deserve our help. They also spent months refusing to extend unemployment benefits for millions of Americans, people made chronically jobless by our faltering economy. (They finally got the bill to go through when the late Senator Byrd's replacement was appointed.) Even when this bill was passed and signed into law, it only extended unemployment for people like me, who are not past the 99 week mark in their unemployment benefits;. It does not help my brother, or any of the other "99ers."
What Republicans and deficit-hawk Democrats don't tell you is that benefits for the poor and the unemployed are generally accepted by economists of all ideologies as the most economy-stimulating spending there is. Money paid to such people is likely to be spent immediately on food and other necessities, which helps to keep people employed who sell the food and necessities. The poor and unemployed also pay sales tax, putting money into the empty coffers of financially-strapped states and communities so they don't have to lay off teachers and police and firefighters. Republicans insist that we can't afford to help these people, and anyway they're just lazy bums who don't want to work; never mind that they represent about 10% of the nations workforce and that there are, on average, 5 unemployed for every job. An unemployed teacher or, ahem, accountant, isn't a great match for a job making submarine sandwiches anyway. Most job openings I personally see are for selling insurance, a task I'd be truly abysmal at, or for accepting payments on a home computer on behalf of an overseas company I've never heard of, in return for a commission. It sounds uncomfortably like what's known as a "Nigerian scam." My friend S. talks about trying to find a job online; I shudder to think what she'll come up with, if anything.
So, yeah, Republicans and some Democrats think it's a fine idea to reduce the deficit by paying as little as possible to people like me, underemployed for three years this month; my brother, unemployed for over 99 weeks and therefore getting no unemployment at all, and incidentally with significant medical problems; and my friend S., living on Social Security and with physical and mental health disabilities. Her food stamps were recently reduced on an individual basis, and the only explanation given was that it was because her Social Security benefit went up, which it didn't. (I think they used a small, one-time extra SS payment all recipients got earlier this year as an excuse to artificially recalculate everyone's income as higher than it is, so the state doesn't have to pay out as much in food stamps.) I've seldom seen S. buy much more by way of groceries than bottled water, organic milk and cola, and maybe a loaf of french bread. At the end of July she ran out of food stamps and was unable to even buy that much. Her medical coverage is from state-run AHCCCS, which doesn't cover dental or vision or hearing. (S. has teeth missing, with no prospect of dentures or other treatment.) She is consistently treated rather badly by social workers and medical professionals. Most recently, the agency that pays part of her rent started sending $59 less than before, with no explanation, and no returning of phone calls. I as her representative payee have to make up the difference from her same unchanged Social Security check. How am I meant to do that?
But no, according to Republicans we can't afford to help people like S., because of the deficit, don't you know (deficit price tag for the extension of unemployment benefits: $33 billion), and because my mentally ill, arthritic friend in the scooter, a fibromyalgia sufferer, is somehow a lazy bum, the undeserving poor. Those same people insist that we must extend the Bush tax cuts for the richest 2% of Americans, which, if made permanent, would add over $1 trillion to the deficit over a 10-year period. Yeah, that'll help. Such trickle-down, voodoo economics have been in place since 2001, and look where we are now.
On the extra credit question, I admit that I don't typically read newspapers, except sometimes the online versions. My op-ed pages are mostly two tv shows, Countdown with Keith Olbermann and The Rachel Maddow Show, and sometimes The Huffington Post. I feel a little guilty about not supporting Tucson's sole surviving daily newspaper, but I tended to spend the money without ever reading past page one. Sorry, TNI.