Congress should extend benefits

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 10, 2003

These days it appears that one has to be either a drug manufacturer, HMO or fossil fuel energy provider to get any sympathy from the United States House of Representatives or the executive branch.

The House and White House recently attempted to, and partially succeeded in, showering the aforementioned special interests with largess, largely at the expense of the nation’s environment, long-term dependence on foreign oil and the medical costs paid by every single man, woman and child in the United States.

The massive Medicare reform bill signed into law by the president on Monday is little more than a license for drug companies to gouge Americans. The energy bill, mercifully delayed by a reasonable Senate, was one of the biggest barrels of pork ever to come down the pike.

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Yet while House members are hard at work making sure their largest campaign contributors get their money’s worth for the politicians they bought, they allowed the expiration of benefits sorely needed by the nation’s long-term unemployed. Right at Christmas, no less.

On Dec. 21, this program comes to an end. An estimated 80,000 jobless Americans whose state benefits are expiring will be left high and dry.

Congressmen are back in Washington this week dealing with the pork-laden $373 billion spending bill. If there is money available for a Great Dismal Swamp Interpretive Center in Suffolk, then surely money can be found to help those most in need, particularly from a congress and administration that doesn’t see anything wrong with large budget deficits. The president should demand it.

The callousness from an administration that has overseen the largest loss of jobs since The Great Depression is difficult to fathom. The president should demand that Congress extend benefits.