By Stephen C. Webster on December 27, 2013

Senator Bernie Sanders ripped into his Republican counterparts during an MSNBC appearance on Friday for their refusal to extend unemployment benefits, reminding viewers that the GOP is destroying hundreds of thousands of jobs and threatening the recovery by tearing regular income away from 1.3 million American families.

"When these people don't have any income coming in, they're obviously not spending any money," he said. "Economists tell us that will result in a two-tenths of 1 percent drop in our GDP and the loss of about 160,000 jobs. So, I think from a moral perspective, from an economic perspective, we can't turn our backs on struggling people who just can't find work."

Added, the White House's Council of Economic Advisers and the U.S. Department of Labor agree with Sanders' point, although they estimate (PDF) that cutting benefits will cost over 240,000 jobs in 2014, instead of just 160,000.

Passed in 2008 at the height of the economic crisis, the Emergency Unemployment Compensation program has served over 24 million Americans, according to the Department of Labor. By extension, the program has also served those people's families, widening the benefit's reach to 69 million Americans. And in 2012 alone, the program lifted 2.4 million out of poverty.

Republicans in Congress, however, are adamant that these benefits must end.

While their plan to kick millions of Americans into poverty will take effect as of Saturday, the GOP is playing a risky game if recent polling is to be believed. The Democratic-affiliated Public Policy Polling group reported this week that a supermajority of Americans want unemployment benefits extended, including a plurality of Republicans and a majority of Independents in key bellwether congressional districts.

While there is a bill in the Senate to extend those benefits, it is very unlikely to pass the Republican-controlled House. So, progressive groups have already begun advertising against Republicans for kicking the poor "to the curb" during the Christmas season. "So, to the 1.3 million Americans losing unemployment benefits, Merry Christmas from the GOP," a recent 30-second spot by Americans United for Change jabs.

That's exactly what Sanders has in mind, too.

"I'll tell you how you do it: you go to the American people," he said. "For example, the Rand Pauls and virtually every other Republican wanted to cut Social Security, wanted to cut Medicare, wanted to cut Medicaid. Guess what? We didn't cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, because some of us worked very hard to rally millions of Americans who are saying, you're not going to balance the budget on the backs of the elderly, the children, the sick and the poor, just to give tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires and large corporations. And when you take that case to the American people, we are going to win that."

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Photo: Flickr user AFGE, creative commons licensed.

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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