The Difference Between Violations and Felonies of Elitism

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You know what strikes me as elitist? Well, I’ll tell ya. Elitism is when people with more money and/or a snazzier bunch of diplomas than me treat my life conditions with ignorance (“I don’t know”) and apathy (“and I don’t care.”)

In passing, I think a presidential candidate advising us to put down our Blackberries and spend more time with our kids is saying an elitist thing. Does this candidate neither know nor care that most of the vaunted working-class, “low information” voters out there simply can’t afford the added monthly fee using a Blackberry or smart phone would run? I would consider myself a fairly “high information” voter and I can’t fit a Blackberry into my own budget. Church work. Whatever.

However, offhand campaign trail elitisms are mere violations — rhetorical jay-walking, if you will — compared the the felonious levels of ignorance and apathy shown by the current resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Felonious elitism doesn’t merely insult you — it hurts you.

Today’s New York Times editorial smacks down the latest White House expression of “I don’t know what you’re going through and frankly, I don’t care:” unemployment insurance.

The latest employment report shows other deepening problems for American workers, including slower wage growth, cutbacks in hours, a sharp increase in the number of part-timers who would prefer full-time work and lengthening spells of unemployment.

The White House response to the pain is to wait and see if things get even worse before calling for help for the unemployed. On Friday President Bush said that his administration had anticipated the slump and would combat it with tax rebates that were passed last February as part of the economic stimulus package.

…there’s no more time to wait and see. In April, the number of Americans who had been out of work for at least 27 weeks (26 weeks is when unemployment benefits run out) rose to 1.35 million workers. In the past year, 2.74 million jobless workers have exhausted their benefits.

Your president says: “Let them eat rebates.” As if a few hundred bucks are going to get 2.74 million Americans (and who knows how many more over the year) through the hard times.

Your president seems not to know, nor care, that we’re not simply talking 2.74 million Americans here. We’re also talking about the immediate families of these 2.74 million Americans, who suffer directly with them. We’re also talking about the extended families of many of those 2.74 million Americans who are sacrificing to keep them from the streets. We’re also talking about the victims of the more desperate of those resourceless Americans. And so on and so on.

Didn’t you know that, Mister Bush? Don’t you care? Apparently not. The Times urges Congress to take the reins, in a stirring summary which amounts to talking points for their readers:

What is needed — now — is for Congress to extend jobless benefits for people who exhaust their initial 26 weeks of payments. Research is unequivocal that bolstered jobless benefits are more effective stimulus than tax rebates. They also have the advantage of being targeted to people in need.

The extension could be attached to the supplemental spending bill for the Iraq war, which may come before Congress as early as this week. Predictably, President Bush is balking, mainly because of his wrongheaded belief that tax cuts are the best solution to all problems.

The White House has also asserted that with the overall unemployment rate hovering around 5 percent, joblessness is not yet bad enough to warrant an extension of unemployment benefits. But in prior recessions, benefits had already been extended when long-term unemployment reached the current level. And in recent recessions, the unemployment rate didn’t peak until the recession was basically over. Waiting for the rate to rise before extending benefits is almost sure to result in offering too little help, too late — deepening the pain of the recession.

Congress erred by not extending unemployment benefits in last February’s stimulus package. Lawmakers and Mr. Bush now have a second chance to fix that mistake. They must not squander it.

What if every unemployed person, along with every family member and friend of unemployed persons, called Congress (contact information HERE and HERE) and the White House (contact information HERE)? It might make a difference. I say, go for it.


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