America awaits a fighting progressive leader who will lead the battle for a major employment programs and refute the big lie of the limousine libertarians of the Republican right who falsely claim that Americans would rather have jobless benefits than fair-wage jobs.
The limousine libertarians believe in the economic theology of trickle-down economics, condemned by Pope Francis, who I praised again recently. In the world of the limousine libertarians, we should pour tax cuts, bailouts and benefits to the wealthiest. They claim it will trickle down to the poor and so oppose jobless benefits to the workers, who they demean and insult with the lie they are lazy.
For the last two months, the news has been that Republicans were fighting to kill jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed. And now, jobless benefits for more than 1.3 million people have expired. The big lie of the right is that these workers do not want jobs because they prefer jobless benefits. But while the GOP war against jobless benefits was advancing, more than 300,000 more Americans stopped looking for work.
They did not stop because they preferred jobless benefits, which were under attack by the right. They stopped because in most cases they could not find work and became depressed.
The way to lower the cost of jobless benefits is not to punish the jobless but to create more jobs. It is time to extend jobless benefits not for three months, but for a year. It is time for Democrats to wage an all-out battle for a major new jobs bill that would employ millions of Americans to rebuild America, not merely to pay lip service to jobs with talking points and photo ops.
It is time for Democrats to rebut and attack the rightist narrative that every employment program must be paid for. No, with the deficit falling and joblessness plaguing the land, we need to stimulate the economy and not impose root-canal austerity against American workers.
A great battle is coming in Democratic politics about who will be the next great progressive leader in America. Hillary Clinton? Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts? Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York? Democratic leaders in Congress? Former Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer? A revived labor movement?
Pope Francis is right, and the limousine libertarians of the right are wrong. America and the Democratic Party await the next great progressive leader who will fight like hell for jobless benefits for the jobless and for a major program that will put the idea of full employment back at the center of American politics.
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