There is a fundamental difference between standing beside someone, and standing with them. Today on a beautiful summer day President Obama stood in the White House Rose Garden and volleyed strong words in harsh tones toward those in the US Senate that have thus far been successful in their blockade of relief for the unemployed.
“We’ve got to stop blocking emergency relief for Americans who are out of work. We’ve got to extend unemployment insurance.” he said with Leslie Macko, Denise Gibson, and Jim Chukalas standing behind him. Three unemployed Americans staged behind the President like set pieces designed to put a human face on yet another stern Presidential lecture.
Yet while the President no doubt advocates the passage of H.R. 4213 his words today describe a man dedicated only to the perception of concern and action for those that have already exhausted the full allowance of Unemployment benefits. The so-called “99er’s” whose horror will not lessen-it’s numbers still growing, thanks to the cowardly construction of H.R. 4213, an “extension” of time not assistance.
“We need to pass it for men like Jim Chukalas, who’s with me here today. Jim worked as a parts manager at a Honda dealership until about two years ago. He’s posted resumes everywhere. He’s gone door-to-door looking for jobs. But he hasn’t gotten a single interview. He’s trying to be strong for his two young kids, but now that he’s exhausted his unemployment benefits, that’s getting harder to do.”-President Obama, July 19, 2010.
The President’s vague words, “until about two years ago” don’t tell us if Jim Chukalas is a “99er”. He might be or he could be stuck between Tier 3 and Tier 4, marooned there like so many Americans unable to get to their next level of benefits since June 2nd. But when the President says “We need to pass it (the unemployment extension) for men like Jim Chukalas” he’s referring to those people who have been without work for not merely a few months but years. A hearty call to action that is undercut by the deafening silence that follows.
You see President Obama, any Democrat really will talk up the struggle of the unemployed, bludgeoning their political rivals for their lack of humanity and concern. They’ll charge “politics”, smile for a picture and then disappear into thin air. Ticker tape, ripped up signs, and people like Jim Chukalas left in the town square to deal with the mess.
The media will fawn over the President’s fist shaking and no one will notice that within the sound and fury exists nothing real. No declarations that a 5th Tier of Unemployment must be enacted , no directives to a Congress under his parties control to make a Tier 5 extension priority one before yet another “Capitol Holiday”. No, instead of aid to Mr. Chukalas, and those like him who will be either marginally aided by H.R. 4213 or abandoned altogether they get smiles, ambiguity, and politics as usual.