The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

January 11, 2014

Republicans need to get to work on unemployment

From The Back Porch column

By Nerissa Young

— The Republicans who don’t want to extend unemployment benefits have clearly never needed them. Otherwise, they’d be trampling over Democrats to cast a yes vote on the controversial bill that senators are expected to vote down Monday night.

The bill squeaked out of the Senate on Tuesday with a few Republicans supporting the idea, The New York Times reported. However, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid likely ended that support with his Thursday failure to consider Republican amendments.

Cue the banjos. “We get nowhere with dueling amendments,” he said as reported by the Times.

Well, somebody needs to start agreeing on something.

Republicans don’t just want to extend benefits. According to the Times, they want to cobble on everything from the Keystone XL pipeline to more exemptions for the Affordable Care Act to veterans benefits. They have enough hoops in the air to keep Barnum & Bailey in operation for at least six months — with two shows a night.

And one or two, such as Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, believe the unemployed are using their situation as an all-expense-paid vacation courtesy of Uncle Sam.

They ought to try living on those benefits. I did and nearly went bankrupt.

Because of my former job’s income, I qualified for the highest amount of compensation offered in West Virginia and couldn’t even make my bills.

Statistics show that the longer a person is unemployed, the harder it is to get hired. There is truth in the saying that to get a job, you need to already have one. It’s kind of like trying to get a bank loan when you need money; you can’t.

This is a simple matter, really. Pay now, or pay later.

People use that argument to leverage for more money for education. They reason — and statistics bear out their argument — that dollars spent on educating an at-risk young person will save money versus incarcerating that person later.

So Uncle Sam can pay the benefits now or deal with the ripple effects in the economy of more foreclosures, increased applications for food stamps and Medicaid benefits and a further strain on charitable organizations that will have to pick up the slack for the estimated 3 million unemployed Americans.

Perhaps the number of unemployed is just peanuts to the Republicans now, but they are the elephants who will need those peanuts in 2016.

James Madison, the guy who wrote the Constitution, would not be popular among today’s Republicans, many of whom claim to be strict constitutionalists. He believed in a strong central government with broad powers.

In the preamble, he wrote the Constitution was to provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare and secure the blessings of liberty. One could argue that for someone who has lost a job, the ability to pay one’s bills and have a home contributes to an orderly society in which people are able to secure said blessings.

Congress spent very little time deciding to bail out the Big Three automakers and the crooked financial institutions that led to the 2008 recession. And now they want a drawn-out drama to help the regular guy who has been down on his luck for a year or more?

After President Obama was elected, the Republicans couldn’t shuck George W. Bush fast enough so they could channel Ronald Reagan in hopes of taking back the Congress and the presidency.

This is a time they ought to be channeling a little bit of Dubya’s compassionate conservatism.

— Young is a Register-Herald columnist. E-mail:

© 2014 by Nerissa Young