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“Merry Christmas From The GOP”: On December 28th Unemployment Benefits End For 1.3 Million Families

Three days after Christmas, unemployment benefits end for 1.3 million people who have exhausted their state unemployment benefits, but still can’t find a job.

To be eligible for unemployment benefits, you have to be actively looking for a job. Virtually all of these people would rather work, but can’t find a job in today’s economy where there are three applicants for every job available.

But when the budget deal was negotiated in Congress over the last several weeks, Republican negotiators refused to agree to continue those unemployment benefits. And at the same time, they demanded the continuation of tax breaks for big oil companies and loopholes for Wall Street billionaires who get their income from hedge funds.

Merry Christmas from the GOP.

Of course this kind of Christmas cheer comes from the same gang that routinely drags out the well-worn charge that progressives and Democrats are engaging in a “war on Christmas”. Maybe someone should force Republican Members of Congress to sit through a showing of “A Christmas Carol” and then explain why they think Ebenezer Scrooge is the hero.

Over the last decade the far right, that now dominates the GOP, has conducted a real war on the values that we celebrate at Christmas.

In case they missed it, Christmas is about giving, and sharing and loving your neighbor. It’s about family. Christmas has nothing to do with greed or selfishness or paying people poverty level wages so you can maximize your bottom line.

The Christmas spirit is not about cutting off an economic lifeline for over a million people so the wealthiest in the land can continue to prosper beyond imagining. And remember many of those same wealthy people who are doing so well are personally responsible for the recklessness that caused the Great Recession and cost the jobs of those whose unemployment benefits they now believe we can “no longer afford”.

You hear a lot from the right wing about having to make “tough choices” because some things “we just can’t afford”. Ironically those “things we cannot afford” never include the things that benefit the very wealthy.

In fact, as surprising as it may seem to many Americans, there is more bounty in the land this Christmas, than at any time in our nation’s history. Our income per capita – and our productivity per person – has increased by 80% over the last 30 years. But over those same 30 years, average incomes for most Americans were stagnant – and virtually all of that increased income and wealth went to the top 1%.

That is bad enough. But then to insist that our country “can’t afford” to continue paying unemployment benefits to people who can’t find a job – and by the way – cut off their benefits three days after Christmas – that is an outrage.

Many on the right are so out of touch with ordinary Americans that they argue that providing unemployment benefits makes people “dependent”. This of course completely ignores the fact that to qualify you have to have been working and lost your job for no fault of your own; you have to be actively looking for work; and the maximum benefits in many states are very low.

Ask the Koch brothers to support a family on the $258 per week maximum benefit in Louisiana, or the $275 per week maximum benefit in Florida – or even the $524 per week maximum benefit in Ohio.

People don’t want to stay on unemployment benefits. They want to find a job that provides them with income and benefits that allow them to give a better life to their families and their kids. They want to make a contribution and feel that they do worthwhile work. Most Americans want to be proud of what they do for a living – they don’t want to be “dependent” on anyone.

You have to be from another planet to believe that most people will become “dependent” on a total income of $275 per week.

Unemployment benefits provide workers and their families with an economic shot in the arm to get them through being laid off in an economy when jobs are still hard to come by.

And let’s be real clear why jobs are so hard to come by. Jobs are still hard to come by because of the policies of those very same right wing politicians who refused to reign in the orgy of reckless speculation on Wall Street that resulted in a ruinous financial collapse from which the economy is still recovering.

Jobs would be a lot easier to come by if the GOP did not do everything it could to block President Obama’s American’s Jobs Act that would create millions of jobs in both the public and private sectors by investing in teachers, and infrastructure.

Jobs would be a lot easier to come by if the GOP were not fixated on cutting government investment at a time when virtually all economists – including the Federal Reserve Chairman – believe we need more fiscal stimulus and that the policy’s of the Republicans in Congress continue to be a major drag on economic growth.

In fact the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that failing to continue federal unemployment benefits will cost the economy 240,000 jobs and slow the growth of the overall economy by .2%.

Those who receive unemployment benefits spend virtually every dime on the goods and services they need to live. That spending provides jobs to thousands of other Americans. So cutting federal unemployment benefits will actually create a quarter million more people who are unemployed. Great work GOP.

So here is the bottom line. It turns out that a society that reflects the spirit of Christmas – one where we have each other’s back – where we care about each other and not just ourselves – a society like that is better for everyone.

In fact, it turns out that the “moral” thing to do – the “right” thing to do – is also the “smart” thing to do.

It turns out that progressive values like loving your neighbor as your self – are the most precious possessions of humanity because they are the values that will allow us and our children to prosper and survive.

And that’s why the spirit of Christmas doesn’t just belong to Christians – or Catholics or Baptists or Episcopalians – or anyone. The Christmas spirit belongs to everyone on our small fragile planet. And that spirit embodies exactly the set of values that we must use to chart our course not just on Christmas Day but 365 days each year – including December 28th when over a million families will lose the economic lifeline that provides them a bridge to a better life.

 

By: Robert Creamer, The Huffington Post Blog, December 23, 2013

December 23, 2013 Posted by | GOP, Unemployment Benefits | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Jesus, Santa Claus, And Race”: Conservative Secularism And The Pride Of White Identity

It’s probably appropriate that an anchor on the media network which annually gives us the maddening agitprop over the “War On Christmas” has kicked up a stir by insisting that Jesus Christ and Santa Claus were (and presumably “are” for believers) white folks, just like most Fox viewers. Politico‘s Hadas Gold has the story:

On Wednesday night Megyn Kelly declared on her Fox News show that both Santa Claus and Jesus were white. Discussing a piece in Slate by Aisha Harris about a black versus white Santa, Kelly that “just because it makes you feel uncomfortable it doesn’t mean it has to change.”

“You know, I’ve given her her due. Just because it makes you feel uncomfortable doesn’t mean it has to change,” Kelly said. “Jesus was a white man, too. It’s like we have, he’s a historical figure that’s a verifiable fact, as is Santa, I just want kids to know that. How do you revise it in the middle of the legacy in the story and change Santa from white to black?”

Santa Claus can be traced to a real life monk named St. Nicholas who lived in what is today Turkey, according to the History Channel. Jesus Christ was born to a Jewish family around what is now Israel, and his race has long been debated with several scholars saying he likely looked like what many modern day people of Middle Eastern descent look like.

The unusual segment, where the panelists also debated whether Santa Claus should be a penguin as Harris writes in her piece, seemed to be directly contradicting what Kelly said on Monday when she appeared on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.”

“I’m a straight news anchor, I’m not one of the opinion hosts,” she told Leno. “The way we do it on the Fox News Channel is the straight news anchors like us give a hard time to both sides.”

It seems especially idiotic to claim a race for a mythical figure like Santa Claus. As for Jesus Christ, we have the authority of a fellow named Paul of Tarsus (Galations 3:28):

In Christ Jesus, you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.

So who cares to what race–or for that matter, gender–the “historical Jesus” belonged? The principal of absolute equality before God is a central principle of Christianity–or at least forms of Christianity that haven’t succumbed to the secularism (yes, that’s what it is, folks) that associates the faith with cultural or political conservatism or the pride of white identity.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, December 12, 2013

December 14, 2013 Posted by | Conservatives, Race and Ethnicity | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“A Wall That Protects Us All”: Sarah Palin Can’t Tear Down The Wall Between Church And State

“We have just enough religion to make us hate,” wrote Jonathan Swift, “but not enough to make us love one another.” A lifelong religious controversialist, the 18th-century Irish satirist definitely knew whereof he wrote. After all, it’s fewer than 20 years since Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland quit dynamiting each other’s gathering places.

Even here in the United States, it often seems that picking fights over religion increases during the Christmas season. If anything, claiming to be persecuted while expressing contempt for others’ belief appears on the rise.

And, no, I’m not talking only about the annual invocation of paranoid triumphalism Fox News calls the “War on Christmas.” Nor even about noted theologian Rush Limbaugh assailing Pope Francis as a “Marxist” for criticizing the tyranny of markets and the worship of money. Because Jesus was all about capital formation and tax cuts for the wealthy.

Everywhere you look, somebody’s insulting somebody else’s religion.

To me, the cultural left’s only marginally better than the right. I recently witnessed a remarkable online colloquy concerning a Catholic organization’s shipping 3,000 rosaries to the Philippines to victims of Typhoon Haiyan, “so that they can thank God” as one cynic wrote.

“Do these people ever use their minds for one second?” one person asked. “Hearing this is thoroughly depressing. It shows how ignorant and warped so many people are and how daunting is the amount of education there needs to be to cure the world.”

Cure it of what, I wondered. Of typhoons? Of charity? Or merely of belief? Almost needless to say, Roman Catholic churches worldwide were taking up special collections for storm victims in that largely Catholic nation—along with religious and humanitarian organizations worldwide.

“They are vultures sweeping down on those in need to shove more control down their throats,” wrote another. “I have nothing but contempt for the Catholic church and religion as a whole.”

News flash: The world will never be cured.

Meanwhile, how this kind of free-floating rage differs from Bible-beating preachers who blame earthquakes and tornadoes on other people’s sexual sins escapes me. The main characteristic of the fundamentalist mind is an inability to refrain from expressing contempt for beliefs different from one’s own—whether one’s spiritual leader is Pat Robertson or Christopher Hitchens.

Which brings us back to Sarah Palin’s remarkable appearance at the late Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University last week—the last stop on a tour publicizing her book Good Tidings and Great Joy: Protecting the Heart of Christmas.

“I say in a very jolly Christmasy way,” the Alaskan babbler claims, “that, ‘Enough is enough.’ Say enough is enough with this politically correct police out there that is acting to erode our freedom to celebrate and exercise our faith. Some Scrooge wants to force Christ out of Christmas and wants to ban Jesus out of the reason for the season?”

To hear Palin tell it, there’s a veritable army of “angry atheists armed with an attorney” who “want to try to abort Christ from Christmas” by filing lawsuits “when they see a plastic Jewish family on somebody’s lawn—a nativity scene, that’s basically what it is, right?”

Actually, no.

But never mind theology, here’s the deal: If Palin or anybody else can provide a single, verifiable instance of somebody being successfully sued for exhibiting a crèche, a cross or any religious symbol on private property anywhere in the U.S., they’d have something to complain about.

They’d also have the certain support of the American Civil Liberties Union in defense of their First Amendment rights.

But of course that’s not what these (to my mind overblown) fights over nativity scenes at courthouses, city halls and state capitols around the country are about. Instead, they’re about an “establishment of religion” which the same First Amendment categorically forbids.

In typical scattershot fashion, Palin even invoked Virginia’s own Thomas Jefferson, a conventionally pious Founding Father in her mind, who would, like, totally object to the persecution of people like her who can’t make everybody admit that their God is America’s God:   

“I think Thomas Jefferson would certainly recognize it and stand up and he wouldn’t let anybody tell him to sit down and shut up.”

Now it’s definitely true that Jefferson was rarely shy about his religious views. Courtesy of Martin Longman in Washington Monthly, here’s his opinion about what Palin calls “the reason for the season” from an 1823 letter to John Adams: “The day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the supreme being as his father in the womb of a virgin will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerve in the brain of Jupiter.”

Like Swift, Jefferson recognized the dangers of religious strife. That’s precisely why, he assured Connecticut Baptists in 1802, the First Amendment decreed “a wall of separation between church and State.”

A wall that protects us still.

 

By: Gene Lyons, The National Memo, December 11, 2013

December 12, 2013 Posted by | Religion | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The GOP War On Christmas”: Compassionate Conservatism Is As Much An Oxymoron As “Free Agency” In The Sports World

Most of us will eat a great dinner Thursday and we have a lot to be thankful for. But many Americans won’t have much to eat on Thanksgiving or any other day for that matter.

The Boston Globe recently profiled Lurinda DaRosa, a single mother of two children who lives in the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston. Lurinda had a job but unfortunately she hasn’t been able to work since she had heart surgery.

Before November 1st, Lurinda received $66 in federal nutrition benefits every month. You can imagine it’s not easy to feed three people on that kind of budget. Don’t try it at home. A gallon of milk at the local supermarket costs $2.99. You can do the math, so you can imagine how tough it was for Lurinda and her children when her federal food assistance allowance dropped to $37 a month effective November 1. The allowance for the DaRosa family and millions of other Americans decreased because House Republicans refused to extend the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits that were part of the Economic Recovery Act.

Whatever happened to compassionate conservatism anyway? These days, compassionate conservatism is as much an oxymoron as the phrase “free agency” in the sports world is.

Lucinda and her family will soon take another hit for the holidays from the GOP Grinch who stole Christmas. The deadline for a new federal budget agreement is 10 days before Christmas. The Republican budget proposal is Rep. Paul Ryan’s “Path to Prosperity” which is a path to poverty for millions of Americans. Under the Ryan budget there will an additional $39 billion in cuts in nutrition assistance for people like Lurinda and her kids over the next 10 years. Good luck with that.

Forty-seven million Americans were on the wrong end of the cuts that just went into effect. Thirty-seven million of the people who suffered the cuts were women and children. The cut took food out of the mouths of babes. And Republicans wonder why so few women vote for them anymore. Ten million of the recipients of the reduced allotments were seniors. A million veterans were also at the wrong end of the budget axe – I hope they didn’t build up too much of an appetite fighting for our freedom. Thank you for your service.

Meanwhile President Obama’s calls to congressional Republicans to cut the hundreds of billions of dollars of corporate welfare fall on deaf ears. Big business has thousands of highly paid lobbyists in Washington. Hungry Americans just don’t have much clout in the capital.

The burden on federal taxpayers would be lighter if Republicans in the House of Representatives would follow the Senate’s example and vote to increase the minimum wage. The best Wal-Mart can do is to sponsor food drives for its workers. McDonald’s does its part by sending its workers a pamphlet on stretching their food dollar. If McDonald’s really wants to help, the fast food giant could pay its workers a living wage.

Conservatives trot out the Bible at the drop of a hat to justify their extremism. During the holiday season, they might want to check out Matthew 25:34-36. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat.'”

This time of year, conservatives complain that liberals are trying to take Christ out of Christmas. One way for Republicans to put Christ back into Christmas would be practice a little Christian charity by voting against the Ryan budget next month.

 

By: Brad Bannon, U. S. News and World Report, November 26, 2013

November 28, 2013 Posted by | GOP, SNAP | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Many Rivers To Cross”: What To Get Rush Limbaugh And Other Racism Deniers For Christmas

Oh, hey, Jonah Goldberg and Elisabeth Hasselbeck and Rush Limbaugh, and all you right-wingers trying to whitesplain racism to Oprah Winfrey: The finale of “The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross” is on PBS tonight and I’m sure you won’t want to miss it.

You guys know the guy behind it, Henry Louis Gates Jr. Well, OK, you probably only know one thing about him: that he was the Harvard professor arrested by a Cambridge cop in 2009 after having trouble getting into his own house — arrested even after he’d proven he lived there. It took a beer summit with President Obama and Vice President Biden to make things sort of OK.

I wrote at the time about how Obama’s wading into the Gates controversy – he simply told the truth, that the police had acted “stupidly” in detaining and booking the Harvard professor in his own home –  had “blackened” him for many white people. It coincided with a sudden plunge in the president’s approval rating among white voters, from the 60s down to the 40s, and he never really recovered.

Yet Gates was a terrible choice to play Angry Black Man, because he’s always been someone who’s treated white people as though they deserve the benefit of the doubt. Melissa Harris-Perry argued in the Nation at the time, “Gates is invested in black life, black history, black art, and black literature, but he has managed to achieve a largely post-political and even substantially post-racial existence.” Which is what made his arrest so shocking.

“Many Rivers to Cross” seems the ideal way for whites, even conservatives, to cross over to understand the enduring legacy of slavery (even you, Sarah Palin) and Jim Crow and the persistence of racism in the age of Obama. Gates doesn’t interview Oprah, but in the finale he does talk to the most illustrious black Republican of our time, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, who gets teary talking about Obama’s victory. “I cried,” Powell confesses to Gates, and Gates gets choked up too.

Oh, I forgot: Colin Powell used to prove the Republican Party wasn’t racist; then he endorsed Barack Obama, and now you guys hate Colin Powell, and think he’s a racist.

Still, Gates does a lot of sly things to make everyone comfortable crossing these rivers with him. He’s kind of literally company, as we see him walk on a cane down roads and riverbeds where unspeakable racial tragedies took place. You’d be safe with him, Jonah Goldberg, strolling down a path that led to the savage quelling of a slave rebellion or a bridge where a Detroit race riot erupted.  He admits his own fears. Gates walks Ruby Bridges back to the elementary school she integrated. “Ruby, were you scared?” he asks. “I would have been terrified.”

Yet he also shows how African-American achievement has always coexisted with African-American oppression, which would be a bracing corrective to the ignorance of insisting the ascendance of Barack Obama and Oprah Winfrey mean racism is behind us. Oprah even has an American capitalist antecedent in Sarah Breedlove/Madame C.J. Walker, who was the first African-American millionaire, male or female (though Walker got rich marketing to black women where Oprah ministers to all of us).

Gates introduces us to black strivers and titans and culture heroes, from Walker to Don Cornelius to Vernon Jordan to Questlove; black meccas from St. Augustine, Fla., to Tulsa, Okla., to Detroit, all while telling the story of how far we still have to travel to equality. He shows how white Americans have always been able to love (and appropriate) black culture without giving up their racism. I’m not saying nothing has changed, nor is Gates, but the notion that Oprah’s own popularity disproves her charge of racism is itself disproven by American history.

I probably know more than the average white person about African-American history, which only ensures that I know less than I think I do. And I learned so much from “Many Rivers,” I am sorry to see it end. One thing I haven’t seen anyone say about it: There’s a gender balance that’s rare in history documentaries that aren’t about women’s history. I watched Episode 4 online back to back with “Lincoln at Gettysburg,” which I loved, but which only featured one female scholar, the great Melissa Harris-Perry.

Gates features dozens, from Annette Gordon-Reed and Thavolia Glymph to Michelle Alexander and Isabel Wilkerson. And he focused on the transformative stories and ideas of black women, from Walker to Rosa Parks, Ella Baker, Diane Nash, Charlayne Hunter-Gault, Grace Lee Boggs (including my friend and mentor Angela Glover Blackwell of PolicyLink, where I’m on the board — but I was writing this piece already before I learned that).

I know Goldberg and Limbaugh and Hasselbeck and the other racism deniers aren’t likely to watch “Many Rivers.” And I know it’s simplistic to think a documentary, however artful, can change the minds of partisans who make a good living denying our history, but I can dream. I’d still try to sneak the whole series into the Christmas stocking of your racism-denying but “cultured” relatives this holiday season.

 

By: Joan Walsh, Editor at Large, Salon, November 26, 2013

November 27, 2013 Posted by | Racism | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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