The Congressional Progressive Caucusby Representative Janice D. Schakowsky
Posted on 2014-01-09
SCHAKOWSKY. If that referred to me, I apologize.
Thank you very much for organizing this hour for the Progressive Caucus.
Mr. Speaker, we are talking about human issues that really don't lend themselves to any kind of political label. We are talking about people. And I think this is what has hurt me so much is the meanness, the meanness.
I just celebrated my 15th year here in the House of Representatives, and I have to tell you that we have disagreed across the aisle on a lot of different things, but the demonization of people who are struggling just to live a decent life. We are talking about people when we talk about the unemployed who aren't looking for the huge fancy job. They want to make enough to be able to raise their children comfortably, to be able to eat, put a roof over their head, just modest things that add up to a decent life.
Aside from all the arguments on why it is really dumb economically to not extend those unemployment benefits, that it will actually cost us jobs, 250,000--I don't know what the estimate is--if we don't put money in people's pockets that they can go out and spend, why would things that used to have a bipartisan consensus not prevail today? In 1959, 1962, 1973, 1977, 1985, 1994, and 2003, we extended unemployment insurance benefits until the level of long-term unemployment--those are people unemployed over 6 months--fell below 1.5 percent. Today that is 2.6 percent of Americans. That is over 1 million Americans.
What are we doing? Who are we? That is what I asked myself around the holidays. We had a lot of cold weather and snow--typical Chicago in some ways--and people are celebrating and still going out and shopping and Christmas lights and Christmas trees. I was picturing--I know some of those families for whom this was so bleak and so unnecessary--that we could have, in 5 minutes before we left here, just extended those unemployment insurance benefits.
And you've got that sign there that says: Each week that we fail to act, 72,000 more people--that is a pretty hefty small town of people-- will lose their benefits, people who only are qualified for those benefits if they are seeking work, three people searching for every job that is available in this country.
You talked to people who have experienced this ultimate sense of insecurity: What is going to happen to me and my family? What I hear at the end of that story when I talk to people is: I don't know what I am going to do. I don't know what I am going to do.
For many people, the fear of homelessness is just right outside their door right now. I don't get it.
We celebrated the--and I mean celebrated--the 50th anniversary of the announcement of the war on poverty and all the things that we did and that were supported for many years.