Thoughts of winter

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    It has turned cold in Washington, with the nighttime temperatures often below freezing.  I woke up around 3:30 due to my sinuses.  As I sit in my living room so as not to disturb my wife with sneezing and coughing, I listen to the sounds – a Mount Vernon clock on the wall ticking as its pendulum goes back and forth, a cat or two padding almost noiselessly across the floor and down the stairs, and the blower for the furnace as the heat kicks in.

    It is that last sound that disturbs me.  

    I have heat –  and food – and roof over my head – and transportation – and the ability to pay our bills.

    Those whose unemployment compensation has run out?  They may have difficulty paying their bills.  Soon they may not be able to afford to put gas in a car, or pay mortgage or rent.  Food will become scarcer.  And heat –  at some point, will their house remain silent because there is no money to pay for it?  My furnace is gas, but the fan is electric.  If I were in arrears on either bill, might we need to bundle up and pray the pipes don’t freeze?  Might we be forced to live in car yet not be able to run the engine to stay warm?

    We are near the nation’s capital.  What if we were further north?

    What is our responsibility to our fellow Americans in a time where unemployment has remain high, creeping up again last month?  How can we say that continuing to extend unemployment compensation discourages people from looking for a job when there are no jobs for most of them, when companies are sitting on over a  trillion dollars in cash rather than hiring?

    Meteor Blades write of the state and local governments with serious financial problems.  My school system has furloughed and cut stipends.  The worst effects of our own shortfall were cushioned this year by money from the stimulus fund.  Next year?  When house prices, which are already down, will creep down further with more foreclosures, with fewer people seeking to purchase, thus further depressing the revenue from real property taxes, thus leading to more local employess – especially those in schools – losing their jobs, and possibly facing the next winter without the ability to maintain a roof over their head, or pay for their heat.

    Meteorological winter began December 1st.  Already there are parts of Virginia with snow.  Snow muffles the outside noise, but snow on the roof can help keep the house warm, retaining whatever heat remains.

    I have a choice.  I can turn my thermostat below its current nighttime 65 degrees and add an extra blanket.  The cats will curl up with one another, or next to one of us.  

    I can run the heater in my car.

    I can make soup, or take hot bath, or take a hot shower.

    It is winter.  Even in an ice storm without electricity I have a gas stove and a gas hot water heater.  We have in the past gone more than 24 hours without electricity and at worst lost some food.

    It is winter.  I think of the millions who will struggle to make it through.  I think of those who will not be able to have a holiday celebration.  I think of those whose income depends upon holiday sales, who will thus find themselves worrying about money, about rent and mortgages, about heat and transportation.

    The blower for the furnace shuts off, having guaranteed that the temperature matches that on the thermostat.  I still hear the clock.  The cats are settled, and now the only other sounds are the occasional car driving by and the noise of the keyboard as I write.

    It is winter.  Because it is winter I think of those in Congress who play games with the well-being of others for political advantage, because they want to be sure to defeat Obama.

    I may be critical of Obama, and I know we cannot afford to extend the tax cuts for the top 2%.  But if he sticks by his insistence that even to temporarily extend those tax cuts for the people who do not need them, the Congress will have to extend unemployment benefits so that people are not in desperate condition, I will be grateful on behalf of those whose suffering is thereby lessened.

    Minnesota is cold in the winter, much colder than New York where I grew up, Philadelphia where I lived for a number of years, or the Washington area where i write this.  I wonder if that contributed to Hubert Humphrey’s thinking, when he offered these words:  

    It was once said that the moral test of Government is how that Government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the handicapped.

    Those who are longterm unemployed are needy, many are in the shadows of life at least as far as the people who refuse to extend unemployment compensation.

    It is immoral to give tax cuts for incomes above a quarter of a million while others have nothing and no chance for a job.  It would be wrong in summer, but in much of this country, in winter it is immoral.

    I think of winter.  These thoughts make me want to weep.  

    • teacherken

      and posted soon thereafter at the Great Orange Satan

      the issues that concern me affect Virginians, where some are already seeing snow, so I also decided to post here.

    • Jim B

      Sad, but we have an uncaring political party so reaching for power that they care less about those without jobs. And worse yet they do not have any plans to create jobs. Where the unemployment rate is at 9.8% is bad news for most of us,it is good news for them since if it holds for the next 2 years they will have it all.

    • KathyinBlacksburg

      the apparent failure (so far) of Dems to bringing forth support for the extension of unemployment benefits, while at the same time being able to coral support for tax breaks only for the rich.

      And I condemn this failure.  Let it be said, that those who put the interests of the wealthy ahead of the unemployed deserve the sternest of rebuke and their routing from office.  But most significantly, there are now even those who would further decimate those, who through no fault of their own were downsized in a faltering economy.  Through no fault of their own.  Yet the condemnations and blame of these victims of Wall Street (yes victims) rings out nonetheless.  

      [Note also, those who are on Social Security have been called recently “lesser people” by one of the very co-chairs our president had the temerity to appoint to the so-called deficit commission.  Our president had not yet heard such a statement, but he knew well the hate-laced contempt for the middle class and the working poor Alan Simpson spews almost every time he opens his mouth.]

      Now some the predators at FAUX and on talk radio want to disqualify the unemployed from voting (these folks who pretend they know the Constitution).  Another Republican wants to change the constitution to limit voting to land owners only.  

      And, as teacherken points out, corporations sit on over a trillion dollars and refuse to hire.  imho they do this because 1) they want Obama to fail and they will harm anyone to accomplish that; 2) they have real contempt for America and Americans; and 3) the unemployed have a “desperate vibe” here.  You hear/read that correctly.  Blame the victim,, over and over.  Then they taunt, vilify and bully them.  It is sickening and something we all better take a good look at and vocally reject…Ken’s right. And Humphrey was right (at least about this).  We are facing a moral test with respect to the unemployed, the foreclosed upon and those with little food).  And right now many are flunking. A gift to the food bank is not enough.  We owe them, every one of them, our considered political effort to re-orient our nation’s priorities as well.  

    • VADEM

      unemployment has destroyed my life. It is doubtful I will ever recover. I will end up in my car before the winter is over. UE extension would be nice if I am even eligible still, but even I am pissed that to get it passed we had to give in and be held hostage by the rethugs. They should have began this tax fight months ago. What I don’t get is if they’re giving away the store, why not get help for the 99’s, the START treaty passed etc.

      I mean, go big or go home in my opinion.