Thursday, April 9, 2009

House GOP Betrays Southside

The Republican-run House of Delegates shot down a proposal yesterday to expand unemployment benefits to part-timers and laid-off workers in retraining programs. The plan also would have given the state access to $125 million in federal stimulus money. The proposals were part of amendments proposed by Gov. Kaine to make the state eligible for federal stimulus money. 

*Deep breath.*

This is an absolute betrayal beyond words. This reminds me of Gov. Gilmore's infamous move back in 2000 to deliberately screw Tultex workers out of unemployment benefits that had bipartisan support in the GA. Sure, some will say there's no need to help part-timers, but that reaction fails to see the big picture--in Martinsville and places like it, your chances of finding a full-time job are slim to nil, even when the national economy is supposedly "good." Instead, you might take two or three part-time positions that pay crap in order to make ends meet, and if you lose one of those you're in a real bind. I try to be patient with the other side and I try to acknowledge that there are legitimate reasons to disagree about political issues. But this failure to act warrants no such understanding or respect. The Republicans in this case have so flagrantly put their own agenda ahead of what's best for the people they are supposed to represent. They are so diametrically opposed to anything involving the government, especially the Obama Administration, that they are willing to leave places like Martinsville out to dry.

There are two Republicans in the House who actually deserve some praise on this issue. The only two Republicans to actually support this legislation were from the Southside--Del. Danny Marshall (R - Danville) and Del. Donald Merricks ( R - Pittsylvania). To their great credit, they broke with their party and actually did what was right for the people they represent. Kudos to them for trying to do the right thing, even if their own party wouldn't let them.

Aside from the staggering moral repugnance of what the GOP leadership did yesterday, I don't think enough can be said about how outrageously stupid this is from a political standpoint. It seems to me like some votes should be no-brainers--you never vote against children or veterans, and you never allow yourself to be perceived as anti-middle class during the worst downturn in a generation. And it wasn't just the party's legislators--Bob McDonnell came out against the unemployment benefits before the vote yesterday. 

I think it's very telling that this story was the front-page, above-the-fold, full-color story in this morning's Martinsville Bulletin. We have 20% unemployment. We take these things very seriously. What the GA did yesterday should be on every piece of literature printed by the DPVA in 2009. Every Democrat in the state should take note; the messaging here pretty much writes itself. Let's make 'em pay for it.

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