Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Obama the real target of GOP’s Senate unemployment extension opposition

It has been four years since I last collected a check for unemployment benefits. Yet the flow of emotions is coming back to me as I prepare to sit back and watch to see just how the U.S. Senate will behave Tuesday with regards to the issue.

My own employment history became erratic during the past decade, as I twice have had job layoffs that resulted in my being eligible for unemployment.

SO I CAN comprehend how people feel who are stuck in a position where they have to rely on those biweekly checks for a few hundred dollars at a time, just so they can have a little bit of cash to pay some bills. In short, what unemployment does is helps to avert a person going broke financially at those times when they lose their jobs for whatever reason.

In my case, I had employers both times who decided that their own profit margins would be greater if they didn’t have to cover the cost of my salary or any kind of health insurance benefit. The apologies (so to speak) of how my talents on the job would be missed didn’t overcome that bitter sentiment.

As things worked out for me, I had two different experiences when I went for unemployment. Or should I say, when unemployment ran out. For that is the situation political people will be asked to confront when the issue comes up in the Senate to extend the amount of time that a person can receive such benefits.

My first time, I received new paying work literally at the exact time that my “benefits” ran out. In fact, it worked out that because of the delay from when one verifies they need a check and when it is received, I literally got to cash my last unemployment check at the exact same time that I cashed my first partial paycheck from the “new” job I wound up getting – a job that was part-time and which eventually disappeared in its own right.

I LATER MANAGED to land a full-time job – one that was not news-oriented. Technically, I got out of the news business for a year-and-a-half. That job disappeared due to layoffs – and that time, I wasn’t so lucky.

When my time came for benefits to run out, I could cite several rejections for full-time work, but no offers.

So what I am saying is that I know first-hand what it feels like to get a job in the nick of time, and also to have benefits run out and not have a clue where the next bit of income will come from.

To use a euphemism from my junior high school days, “It reeks.”

EVENTUALLY, I LINED up my current employment situation, which consists of a part-time job with a newspaper that throws a lot of work my way, occasional checks for the work I do in publishing this weblog and its sister site, and occasional other assignments that pay bits of cash.

It is not a large income, but it beats unemployment. Or more accurately, it beats having one’s unemployment benefits run out.

Of course, I’m sure that some political people – especially those of the Republican persuasion – want me to pipe down. The last thing they want to hear is from people who are going to be expected to keep paying their bills, even though they have been unable to find work significant enough to cover one’s expenses, so to speak.

If anything, I can identify with those people who, admittedly, were used by President Barack Obama on Monday to try to drum up political support for the bill pending in the Senate that would extend the amount of time that benefits can be received.

IT MAY BE political, but then again, it is no less blatant than the opposition being generated by those politicians who want to represent interests that want to believe anyone who loses their job must have done something to warrant such action.

That is a shallow attitude to have, yet it is one that is too common. Recently, a broadcaster whom I used to know personally when I lived/worked in Springfield, Ill., put on his Facebook “wall” as his status, “ … if you are out of work for more than a year, maybe the problem is you …”

I don’t doubt that my “friend” (who now works in radio in Indianapolis, along with a few, varied part-time jobs, as I understand) seriously believes that, or that he isn’t alone in having such thoughts.

What is ridiculous is the thought that anybody would seriously rather have unemployment benefits rather than work. Because I remember the size of the checks I would receive back when I collected them. They weren’t for much money.

NOBODY GETS RICH collecting unemployment.. Everybody has to scale back their lives significantly – some people more than others.

I still remember the second time I collected unemployment, I was eligible for about $260 per week, for up to 26 weeks. I would have complained about that amount, except that I remember I was filling out my application alongside a woman who was trying to support two children on a crummy-paying job, then lost it. I still recall she was eligible for barely over $100 per week (because of how little her last job that laid her off had paid).

I accept that many politicians (who have jobs) are going to vote agaisnt the extension on Tuesday. In fact, the partisanship is so intense that Democrats are forced to wait to vote on the extension bill until after Carte Goodwin is formally sworn in as senator from West Virginia – to prevent the issue from failing due to a filibuster.

The bottom line is that we will hear a lot of rhetoric Tuesday about high-minded ideals. In reality, it is nothing but cheap politicking – at a time when we have some people suffering significantly in this time of economic struggles.


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