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As long time readers of this column may recall, we dislike too early engagement in holidays.
For instance, there are already Halloween decorations which are beginning to look shop worn and disheveled, even though it is more than a month until we reach All Hallows Eve, and there are stores that have already put Christmas things on display, almost three months early, however, we have decided that the most apt introduction to this week’s column is from that Charles Dickens classic, “A Christmas Carol.”
You will recall the scene early in the story in which Ebenezer Scrooge is visited in his counting house by two portly gentlemen seeking donations, as one describes their mission thusly: “Under the impression that they [the prisons, workhouses, and Poor Law establishments] scarcely furnish Christian cheer of mind or body to the multitude, ... a few of us are endeavouring to raise a fund to buy the Poor some meat and drink, and means of warmth. We choose this time because it is a time, of all others, when Want is keenly felt, and Abundance rejoices. What shall I put you down for?”
“Nothing!” Scrooge replied.
Despite the fact that this story was published in December of 1843, one hundred and seventy years ago, there are with us in this year of Our Lord, 2013, a numerous tribe of spiritual descendants of old Ebenezer, as shown by the present efforts of the Republicans to substantially reduce the money spent on the “food stamp” programme, and to impose further restrictions and conditions under which folks can receive even the reduced allowances.
It is truly astounding, and utterly shocking, that in this, the richest, most powerful, nation to be found on the planet earth, that some of our political leaders, who themselves eat exceedingly well at the public trough, should begrudge the poor and disadvantaged the comfort of a full belly.
This is, of course, fully consistent with the aim of these political leaders also to deny these same people any aid or assistance in any struggle against the forces of disease, sickness, or accidental injury.
One of the fundamental bases of their position is that, if one is able to work but isn’t working, then that person should get no food from the programme whatsoever.
For instance Republican Representative Tim Huelskamp, from Kansas, has been quoted as saying: “I think most Americans don’t think you should be getting something for free, especially for the able-bodied adults.”
How Tim and his colleagues and cohorts can settle on this position would be laughable, if it were not so tragic, for, in case they have forgotten, these same politicians are the ones who, with their Wall Street bailout chums and corporate high-roller allies, created the financial crisis whereby the number of jobs destroyed numbered in the multiple millions.
Every day, there are literally millions of folks who want to work, who seek to work, who try to work, but who cannot work because there are, thanks to the aforesaid politicians and financial cronies, no jobs to be had.
Parenthetically, even Tim’s thesis that “most Americans don’t think you should be getting something for free” rings hollow when you consider that advertisers, those masters of psychology, normally manage to work into just about every advertisement something about getting something for FREE!
It is so common that they don’t even find it necessary to spell out the words, as for instance, “BOGO,” Buy One, Get One — free.
An even more forceful example obviously is the lottery — one of them recently gave away Four Hundred Millions of Dollars. Tim doesn’t seem to “connect the dots,” does he?
Of course we must never forget that prime motivation of Tim and his crowd, which is, of course, what will do the corporate crowd the most good?
The answer to this question is often hidden, disguised in virtually indistinguishable subtlety.
These folks always want to get the wages they have to pay their workers as low as possible.
So, consider this scenario: Joe Worker is unemployed and gets food stamps of $400 a month for food for his family.
The government under this new proposal tells him that if he doesn’t get a job he and his children lose that $400 in food.
Enter kindly old corporate employer to whom Joe applies for work.
No, he has no job at the prevailing wage for the kind of work Joe is qualified for.
However, since no job means no food, would Joe consider doing the job he knows, for $200 less than the prevailing wage, since by getting the job he will still get the $400, so the end result is the corporation gets a qualified employee at $200 less expense, and Joe still gets the $400.
And, of course, as usual, the taxpayer subsidizes the corporate payroll.
If having a job is a requirement for the government to feed the hungry, then the government should have a mechanism to create these jobs.
Back many years ago, Sen. Hubert Humphrey and his counterpart in the House, Rep. Hawkins, sponsored a bill in the Congress called the Humphrey-Hawkins Bill, which would have gone a long ways towards solving the unemployment problem permanently, and eliminating the likelihood of employees being unfairly dealt with insofar as wages are concerned, but as usual, the Heirs of Ebenezer prevailed, and that bill was never passed.
Had it been in place the recent recession, instead of being the horrendous experience that it was (and is) would have been no more than a blip on the charts and graphs so loved by economists.
We are mystified as to what it is that causes right wing Republicans to go ballistic about the location where Barack Obama was born, yet want to elect as president folks who were truly not born in the USA, as required by the Constitution.
They first picked Sen. John McCain, who was born in Panama, and now they are rallying behind Tea Party darling, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who was unquestionably born in Canada!
Are there no native born Republicans whom they can back?