How the Republican Party Hopes to Win Votes on the Backs of the Unemployed

July 19, 2010  |  

by Charing Ball

On Tuesday, Senate Democratic leaders plan to force a vote to reauthorize the temporary extension of unemployment benefits, which would extend benefits for 99 weeks for the 2.1 million unemployed, whose benefits lapsed early this past June.  The vote comes after 39 days of filibusting by mostly Senate Republicans (and some centrist Democrats), who are refusing to vote on the resolution.

Some Republican Senate leaders have been quoted as saying that extending unemployment benefits will make people too lazy to look for work. Moreover, the proposal $33 billion package is just too high of a cost to add to the $13 trillion deficit. As someone who tries to see both sides of an argument, even I have to scratch my head at the logic of this one.

Currently, 10 percent of the U.S. population find themselves on the unemployment lines- not including those who are permanently excluded from the job market (i.e. those with felonies, those on public assistance and those who simple gave up on looking for work). Those numbers are even more troubling when you factor in that there are currently 5 applicants for every 1 job opening and current estimates suggest that it will take the US economy 12.5 years for the supply to match the demand for work. If that’s not upsetting enough, a study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development suggest that if the resolution is not passed soon, then 3.2 million unemployed could find themselves without benefits by the end of July.

Recent polls suggest that most Americans, while worried about the national debt, actually favor extending benefits. It makes you wonder what the Republicans, many of whom will be seeking reelection soon, are hoping to gain by voting against the resolution.

For me, it’s quite simple: Republicans are banking on marginalizing enough people from the job force so that they would be more likely to blame the current administration for not doing its due-diligence for creating jobs, thus guaranteeing Republican victories in the mid-term elections. Sound like hogwash?

Well consider this: recent polls are now suggesting that Republicans have more than a slight-edge heading into the November election cycle. Many political observers contribute this to the fact that many in the working class and those who live below the poverty line are more likely to embrace the Republican Party based on future prospects rather than current financial circumstances.

In other words, many poor and working class folks have deluded themselves to believing that by voting for the policies of the rich, they will further their own aspirations for social mobility. The reality has been that in most cases, the policies directed towards the rich have often stagnated wages and prevented many in the working class to advance financially.

Last week, President Obama openly criticized those Republicans for dragging their feet on passing the resolution, labeling them as both obstructionist and the party of the rich.  Now that the Obama Administration has forgone this bi-partisan Kumbaya and has began to push back with rhetoric of its own, more voters will likely begin to question the logic of the Republican’s “NO” vote – especially since it has no other answers beyond tax cuts for the rich. Hopefully.

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