The 50-Year War on Povertyby Representative Jackie Speier
Posted on 2014-01-09
SPEIER. Mr. Speaker, I am here to speak about unemployment
insurance and the extension of it to my Republican colleagues. But
there is no one over here to listen, so maybe they will listen to some
renowned Republicans talk about what is really important.
How about Newt Gingrich, who recently said, ``I think every Republican should embrace the Pope's core critique that you do not want to live on a planet with billionaires and people who do not have any food?'' Or how about John Feehery, a Republican strategist who said, ``What does the Republican Party actually believe in? What is its purpose? Is it just to have unbridled capitalism without any moral core?'' Mr. Speaker, this 50-year war on poverty has faced setbacks under the leadership of both parties, but the GOP-led House seems to be actively engaged in a war on the war on poverty. Congress' inaction has cut off 1.3 million people from unemployment insurance after Christmas and, unless renewed, will cut benefits for another 1.9 million who are eligible in 2014.
Some of my colleagues across the aisle have claimed that this is just politics, that unemployment insurance was ``intended to be a temporary solution to a very temporary crisis.'' Well, here's a news flash. We have been in this crisis since 2008. This is not temporary. This is long-term and it is chronic, and it has been caused by the greed of billionaires of the likes that we have seen on Wall Street. This is a personal nightmare for many of the constituents of my colleagues across the aisle. Some of their constituents have written to my office because they think their Representative is blind to how they are struggling.
Now, Margaret Heffernan is a renowned speaker, and she talks about mindless blindness. And in many respects, that is what I think we are engaged in here, mindless blindness. So here are some of the stories of those impacted by the loss of unemployment insurance who live in districts of my Republican colleagues, because maybe they will hear me and think about who is being hurt by playing politics.
Payne Springs, Texas, resident Linda Mrosko shared her story with me on my congressional Facebook page. Linda was 60 years old when her legal secretary job was eliminated. With more than 40 years of work experience under her belt--this is not someone sitting on a couch at home--40 years of experience as a paralegal secretary, she believed unemployment insurance would protect her if she lost her job. Even while caring for her 80-year-old mother with breast cancer, Linda continued to look for work but got very few interviews. Her 91-year-old father then fell ill and died, but Linda continued to look for work, even while in [[Page H79]] mourning and caring for her sick mother. The few interviews Linda does get, she is surrounded by people in their twenties and thirties and thinks that her age might be keeping her from securing a job.
``My unemployment ended on December 28. I have no savings. I haven't paid rent yet, or electricity, or the car payment, or the phone bill because I don't have enough money to make those payments,'' she wrote to me.
Well, Linda, I hope your Republican Congressman reaches out to you immediately to explain to you in his own words why you shouldn't have your unemployment insurance extended after being employed for 40 years in this country.
Unemployment isn't a temporary problem for Daniel Burrow of Beauregard, Alabama. Daniel just hit his 26th week of filed unemployment. He lost his job in the auto industry in 2012 while he was on medical leave. The 45-year-old has exhausted all his unemployment benefits and applied for more than 50 jobs with no luck. His wife worries how the family will afford gas for Daniel to go job hunting or how the family will pay for necessities not covered by food stamps.
In Florida, 49-year-old Jim Lanzerio can barely pay his bills while he raises his 17-year-old daughter on his own. His unemployment insurance will run out in February, and he wonders why Congress cannot reach a deal on extending Federal emergency unemployment insurance. He has been looking for a job every day since early October and is ``not sitting back and waiting. I would go back to work immediately if someone offered me a job.'' This is more than politics for 70,000 individuals in Florida who already lost their unemployment insurance. These are just three stories. There are 1.3 million more that could be shared here today of people who have lost their unemployment insurance on December 28.
Yesterday was the 50th anniversary of President Johnson's announcing a war on poverty. The real question is: Why are our colleagues waging a war on the war on poverty? ____________________