Sunday, March 24, 2013

Taking the most from the least of us


These days you'd be excused if you wondered whom your elected representatives were actually representing. 

Locked in a battle of ideology where there is no middle ground it's left those with the most to lose in a veritable no-man's land.  If you've suffered the fallout you're living a precarious existence subject to the whims of the political machine.

The proof is easy to find.

The long term unemployed have found their benefit periods drastically reduced and with the looming threat of sequester the size of those checks as well. 

State run healthcare programs have already been denying benefits to the unmarried or childless and reduced benefits and tightened eligibility for the rest..   Even Planned Parenthood and other providers of women's health services nationwide have seen their public funding evaporate based on nothing more than anti-abortion rhetoric . 

While conservatives wage war on social programs, liberals can do little more than act as a backstop even with control of the White House and the Senate.  Progressive legislation frequently finds itself gutted in favor of getting something, anything passed through congress no matter how toothless the legislation.

Wall street doesn't seem to care either way.  In this battle they may as well be the war profiteers taking full advantage of the spoils.  They can literally have their cake and eat it too.  Public policy be damned or more likely ignored so long as the shareholders are happy. 

It's no doubt they will be.

Give the working man a little more cash and they'll happily feed the economy and fill corporate coffers.  Suppress their wages while systematically dismantling a century of labor law and your fortune's made on the backs of a subjugated workforce. 

So as ideologies clash and items like tax reform and infrastructure rebuilding give way to naming post offices  and the minting of commemorative coins, state governments and big business are taking advantage of the lack of governance. 

Look no further for evidence than the state of Arizona now famous for its "Show me your papers" legislation otherwise known as SB1070. 

A week ago their state legislature decided that it was just too easy to get unemployment insurance after conservative business leaders found a sympathetic ear at the state capitol.  For their trouble they got a measure through the state House and Senate to require applicants to provide written documentation from their former employer of their involuntary dismissal from their jobs.

As written, the measure is so biased against the unemployed that all an employer has to do is not provide the applicant with required documentation and the claim can denied.  

Considering funding for the state's unemployment insurance fund comes from employers it's likely the unemployment rate in Arizona will soon drop to 0% in the next 6 months.  Whew! budget crisis solved!

Yes, that's sarcasm...

By the way, Arizona has one of the lowest maximum weekly benefit payments in the country at $240 second only to Mississippi.   Yeah, the gravy train is over you unemployed slackers .

To hear supporters of the measure you'd believe that getting unemployment insurance in Arizona required nothing more than having a social security number and a pulse.  With approximately 75,000 of the state's population of 6.5 million people still on the unemployment rolls (down from 200,0000 in 2010) it's hard to characterize their position as anything but cruel.

The U.S. Department of Labor has already "raised concerns" about the bill's legality under federal law.  Oh yeah, and Arizona's official unemployment rate was still at 8% in January.

Here's another one.  CVS Pharmacy has decided that they need to keep tabs on their employees vital statistics.  Employees covered by the company's health plan are required to provide information such as weight, body fat and other health information or be assessed a $50 per month fee on top of their insurance premiums.    In other words CVS employees can comply with this violation of their privacy or pay a penalty.
 
So if you're collecting unemployment or refuse to submit to employer inquiries about your private health information apparently you're part of the problem.  Meanwhile Washington lets it happen.

We're not talking about forcing millionaires to drive down to a homeless shelter and pass out fistfuls of $20 bills.  It's about subjugating a population already suffering the ravages of a withering economy and a congress impotent to address their concerns.

In the vacuum that's been left, Wall Street soars and so do  the numbers of the less fortunate as they further descend into poverty.  They find a social safety net with ever widening gaps and an indignant conservative leadership holding the scissors.  Worse, the supposed liberal champions of the downtrodden offer little more than lip service.

Twenty years ago this country was facing similar hurdles but ideology wasn't allowed to completely  trump reason.  The result may not have pleased everyone but at least allowed things to move forward.  Brinksmanship was a threat not a foundation for policymaking. 

Actions have consequences, Isaac Newton knew it and apparently so did Matthew, you know the guy from that book Pat Robertson likes to read out of...

"And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’ Matthew25-40

By the way, I'm not religious but that last one makes perfect sense to me...