When America's long-term unemployed gather at their Thanksgiving tables this Thursday to express their gratitude for the year's blessings, they should be sure not to forget Republicans in the House of Representatives. Because of their thoughtful refusal to extend jobless benefits, many of America's unemployed will be able to spend less time shopping for Christmas presents this year. Is that considerate or what?
The Senate wasn't nearly so solicitous. In that chamber, members of both parties voted to extend benefits, believing, for some reason, that they had a responsibility to help those who remain without work in a nation whose weak economy was further undermined by the 9/1 1 terror attacks. They just don't get it. Why else would the Senate's Republicans and Democrats both criticize House Republicans for failing to follow their lead?
To get something from this House, you need to give something, preferably something green and with a president's picture on it. That's just the way it works. Rich people understand that. They give Republicans money, they get a Republican tax cut, one that benefits them more than anyone else. You can complain about it, but it's something for something and, by George, that's the American way.
The pharmaceutical industry understands it, too. They gave the Republicans money and they won protection from lawsuits, without even the bother of a public debate. Who needs a debate, anyway? It's so messy.
Face it, the unemployed have made their own beds. They didn't give money, so they don't get money. Not from this House, anyway. If that means they can't buy Christmas presents or pay the mortgage or pay for medicine, why should House Republicans care? It's not like it's their fault. It's important to remember, too, that House members really don't know much about the pain of unemployment. Theirs is the good life, with districts that virtually ensure their re-election, fully-paid health insurance, cushy retirement plans and annual pay raises that they have very sensibly guaranteed themselves.
So, how can they be asked to sympathize about the plight of jobless Americans when they are so completely insulated from the threat? Some make the effort, it's true, but for men like Dick Armey, Dennis Hastert and Tom DeLay, it simply doesn't add up.
They are the American incarnation of Marie Antoinette, only they have sense enough not to proclaim, regarding the unemployed, "Let them eat cake!" They want the cake for themselves.