Imagine if the U.S. Post Office had just shut down, leaving its almost 800,000 employees without a paycheck. And then imagine Wal-Mart was planning to lay off two-thirds of its workers -- or 1.2 million people -- by Christmas. What would they do? And what would two million more people with no income do to a U.S. economy that was teetering on the edge as it is?
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Well, you don't have to imagine, because that's the situation we're in as of midnight last night. Congress has failed to appropriate money for emergency unemployment benefits for 800,000 Americans. And another 1.2 million people will be in the same boat by the end of December. They'll have no income in the worst economy since the Great Depression -- and with no sign of hope on the horizon.
(Note that these are NOT the "99ers" -- those who've exhausted 99 weeks of unemployment benefits. There are approximately 3.5 million 99ers. The two million who're now falling through the safety net with them have been unemployed for fewer than 99 weeks, but Congress has refused to appropriate the funding for their benefits.)
You don't care, you say? You have a job and don't want to hear about these millions of people who suddenly suffered from a mass attack of laziness starting in late 2008? Well, care about this: without these two million spending their unemployment checks, up to another
million people will likely lose their jobs
, with the total effect stomping on whatever little momentum the economy has. You might be getting a sudden attack of laziness soon yourself.
So what do we do now? Two things:
1. Find the contact information
for your representatives and call, fax and write them demanding that they all -- Democrats or Republicans -- vote for the money for the needed benefits. And tell Democrats to stand up to the GOP Senate blackmail
where they're holding the unemployed hostage unless Democrats vote to extend Bush's tax cuts for the richest 2%. (Of course, don't forget that the Democrats could pay for this right now on their own if they were willing to get rid of the filibuster
And while you're at it, tell Congress to appropriate more money for the 99ers too. There's no single action Congress could take that would help the economy more than putting money in the hands of people who'll spend it right away.
2. Participate in the AFL-CIO's Day of Solidarity
with the long-term jobless on December 7th. We're all in this together, and we'll either make it together or go down together.
If Congress decides to tell millions of Americans to shut up, go home and die...well, we're going to end up at a destination even John Boehner and Mitch McConnell won't like much. I'm amazed my fellow Americans have taken everything as well as they have so far, but every country has their breaking point. And we're getting close.