If you're currently out of work and waiting for your next unemployment check, you might be out of luck. Republican Senator Jim Bunning - a politician so out of touch that even the Republican leaders considered him unfit to run for reelection this year - has been single-handedly blocking an extension of jobless benefits. For 1.1 million affected Americans, the jobless pay ran out last night. Senate Democrats will try to help the jobless by overriding Bunning this week. He insists that, as a matter of fiscal principle, it would be wrong to add to the deficit, but his real message was actually more pungent. Late last week, when Senate Democrats begged him to drop his objections and, in essence, to stop screwing around with people's lives, Bunning was overheard saying, "Tough s--t."
That would make a fine GOP bumper sticker, but perhaps it's Dean Heller, a heretofore obscure Republican congressman from Nevada, who best exemplifies his party's attitude toward the everyday straits of the struggling millions. At a Republican dinner in his state the other night, Heller questioned the wisdom of extending unemployment benefits over a span of several years. He feared that, by doing so, the federal government might turn us into a nation of slackers. Or, as he suggested to his listeners...and I kid you not, this is what he said...
"Is the government now creating hobos?"
Absolutely, that must be the Democrats' ultimate game plan. I happen to have an exclusive iPhone application called iFuture, which allows me to upload text and video of events that haven't even happened yet. I've just tapped the icon. Here's a news story from 2012. Or perhaps it's the Republican cartoon version:
HOBOHEMIA - Riding the rails from all over America, unshaven hobos by the millions descended on the federally-mandated city of Hobohemia, intent on celebrating the creation of their own community and vowing to live out their once-productive lives on the government dole.
Everybody had a story to tell. Strumming a Woody Guthrie tune on his five-string banjo, Joe Hill smiled at the sun as he lolled on his back in the town square. He pulled a cigarette butt from behind his ear, stuck it between his lips, lit the match on his stubble, and said, "I was a middle manager at a manufacturing plant for 35 years until I got laid off back in '09. I suppose I should've kept looking for work so that I could support my family, but there's no need for any of that, now that I've got my jobless check from the government. Long as those checks keep coming, I'm gonna choose to be a bum. The heck with the family - right, Harry?"
His friend, Harry McClintock, looked up from his well-thumbed John Steinbeck novel, and smirked toothlessly. "I'm fixed up real good, Joe," he said. "Just got my latest check from DHS (the federal Department of Hobo Services), and I used it to buy a new iPod. I'm thinking tonight I might try to download that old Red Skelton comedy sketch, Freddy the Freeloader, and maybe that old Johnny Cash ditty, The Hobo Song."
"Good thing we jumped off that train, Harry," said Hill, "because those boxcars didn't have free wi-fi. Which is outrageous. DHS should work up some rules requiring that the freight trains get wireless. The other night I tried to download Big Rock Candy Mountain, and I couldn't even get a signal."
"Great song!" McClintock exclaimed. Hill fired it up on the banjo, and McClintock sang: "In the big rock candy mountains/ There's a land that's fair and bright/ Where the handouts grow on bushes/ And you sleep out every night...Awesome, that part about the handouts. So much more fun than being an out-of-work engineer with a wife and kids and a house in foreclosure. Joe, what say we hit that Starucks over there, then go to Banana Republic for some new glad rags?"
"I guess so," Hill yawned. "But that involves getting to my feet and walking across the street. I've been telling DHS that my checks need to be bigger, to cover the cost of those Frappuccinos, and they keep saying, 'next month, next month.' I keep telling them, 'Jeez, don't I have any rights anymore?'" He shook his head sadly, and started strumming John Lee Hooker's Hobo Blues.
"Buck up, Joe. See the sign in Starbucks? There's a week-long reading of Jack Kerouac."
"Well, OK," said Hill, brightening. "But only if they let us sleep out on the sidewalk between readings."
"DHS already says that's your right as a hobo," McClintock pointed out. Then his phone buzzed. "Hang on, Joe, I got a text coming in. Two, actually." He read and groaned. "First one's from the wife. She wants me to come home, says there are 'now hiring' signs being put up all over town. No frickin way. I like it better when the handouts grow on bushes."
"You got that right," Hill murmured, his eyes growing heavy. "Whuz the other text?"
"It's from the Obama re-election campaign again. They're asking for our vote. They created us hobos, we should be grateful, that sort of thing. But I don't know. Weren't we planning to hop a freight train to Montana that week?"
"I dearly hope there's no jobs for us up there," Hill yawned. "But the heck with the train this time. We'll rent a car - get the DHS discount, ride in style." Fighting sleep and fumbling for the banjo, he began to play Woody Guthrie's Hobo Lullabye.
Lulled by the strumming, McClintock slid his Steinbeck novel under his head and began to nod off. His last words were, "Mmmm, OK. But only if the rental has XM radio."