Don’t blame "Congress" for GOP ending $600 unemployment benefit

Stop the Both Sides nonsense

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Purposefully allowing emergency, $600-a-week unemployment payments to expire on July 31, Trump and Republicans are creating chaos and looming poverty for tens of millions of jobless Americans as Covid-19 spreads nationwide. Amidst inner-party squabbling, the GOP was incapable of coming up with a coherent plan to extend enhanced benefits until hours before the payments ran out, leaving no way for a bill to be passed. Yet the press for days has described the fiasco as "Congress" failing to act, and "Congress" not being able to meet the challenge of America's burgeoning crisis.

The press needs to leave "Congress" out of this and be more direct about what's going on — Republicans just ruined the lives of millions of struggling Americans as the economy falls off the cliff. The reason more than 20 millions Americans will no longer receive the $600 checks is because Republicans don't want them to receive the $600 checks. Not because "Congress" couldn’t agree on more relief. And not because Congress "dissolved into partisan bickering," as the New York Times insisted.

Republicans are only willing to sanction $200 per-week in unemployment assistance, stripping away billions in much-needed aid each week. It's a draconian move that could destroy as many as 5 million jobs, according to an analysis by the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute. "Small businesses desperately need the consumer demand” Small Business for America’s Future, a coalition of small business owners, said in a statement. “We need legislation that puts money in the hands of people who will spend it at local small businesses. The future of our Main Street economies depend on it."

Back in May, Democrats in the House passed their emergency, $3 trillion legislation to extend the crucial $600 payments, as well as provide more money to states and help hospitals. Republicans in the Senate, who refused to take up the House bill, diddled for months. The crucial fact about the House bill being passed months ago is often omitted in news coverage regarding how "Congress" can't get unemployment benefits extended.

Now is not the time for the media to embrace Both Sides coverage and blame the GOP debacle on "gridlock" and "bickering." Not when the issue at stake is truly life or death, and not when Republican incompetence and indifference remains so glaring.

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Yet the lazy media trend continues:

• "Congress Unemployment Gridlock Leaves 25 Million On Brink of Income Crisis" (Newsweek)

•"Congress Nowhere Near Deal; Unemployment Benefit to Expire" (CNN)

• "With Jobless Aid Set to Lapse, Lawmakers Fail to Agree on Extension" (New York Times)

• "Partisan Gridlock: Why Can’t Congress Work Together?" (MassLive)

• "North Texas Families Left in Limbo as Talks Stall Over Jobless Benefits" (Fox4News)

Scanning these headlines, news consumers would assume that both parties support extended benefit payments (they don't), and that both parties are equally incompetent when it comes to passing important legislation (they're not). An accurate headline last week would have read, "Republicans Refuse to Extend $600 Unemployment Benefit as Economic Crisis Worsens."

The truth is, today’s Republican Party cannot govern. More specifically, the Republican Party does not want to govern and doesn't see the federal government as an instrument to help working Americans, even during a national health crisis when millions of families approach the economic abyss. The press doesn't want to highlight that fact, though. Instead, the coverage hides behind a phony Both Sides shield and let’s the GOP off the hook.

The jobless benefits debacle represented a failure of leadership from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), whose job it is to make sure he has votes to pass bills in times of a national crisis. It's startling that during a global pandemic, Republican leaders in the Senate crafted a bill so objectionable that not a single Democrat was willing to support it. Still, much of the press opted to blame "Congress," which puts half the onus on Democrats.

What's distressing is how often the Beltway press presents legislative battles through the lens of the GOP. Republicans today want their unemployment benefits blockade to be presented as a stumble by "Congress," and a troubling example of "gridlock." (It's an essential Republican talking point.) That way, news consumers throw up their hands and blame both parties for failing to pass the extension for the wildly popular $600 relief checks.

Note that back when the pandemic first started destroying the U.S. economy and Congress debated the initial emergency stimulus relief, the press told that story through the eyes of the GOP as well, claiming Democrats were "blocking" the crucial legislation. They weren't "blocking" anything; they were making the bill better by increasing funds for extending unemployment, and getting more money and aid for hospitals and healthcare workers, as well as for destabilized states and localities.

The "blocking" narrative was a classic example of how the Beltway press too often embraces Republican rhetoric, especially when Republicans hit the Phony Outrage button, as they so often do in hopes of generating sympathetic press coverage.

Cutting off aid to tens of millions of Americans today represents a stunning act of political malfeasance by the GOP. It has nothing to do with “Congress.”

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One of the points I’ve been stressing for years is that the Beltway press simply isn’t honest with the American people when it comes to Trump’s radical, dangerous behavior. Too often the jarring truth about what’s unfolding in this country is placed on the sidelines because so many journalists don’t want to acknowledge the stunning truth. And one way to deny that truth is to use bland language to describe Trump’s actions.

This New Yorker piece provides a much-needed counter to that media shortcoming, painting an extraordinarily damaging portrait of what America has become under Trump: “Why America Feels Like a Post-Soviet State”:

The intentional institutional ineptitude and callous nihilism of contemporary Russian society is the product of a seventy-year Soviet totalitarian experiment—or so I have long believed. No such experiment took place in the United States. So how is it that the pandemic has made the U.S. resemble the post-Soviet Russian state? Part of the explanation lies with Donald Trump himself, in the ways in which he performs power. He acts like a totalitarian leader in the absence of totalitarianism—a Mafia boss without a Mafia—and to an astonishing degree he gets away with this act.

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The Allman Betts Band, "Magnolia Road"

Recorded at the famed Muscle Shoals Sound Studio, the second full-length album from the Allman Betts band is due out at the end of the month, with the wonderful "Magnolia Road" serves as the first single.

Talk about a an act with class rock lineage — the Allman Betts band is anchored by Devon Almman, the son of Gregg Allman, Duane Betts, the son of Allman’s Brothers guitarist Dickey Betts, and Berry Duane Oakley, the son of of Allman Brothers bassist Berry Okley. The beauty is this vibrant band doesn't function as an homage to their Hall of Fame parents. It's a kick-ass collection of musicians offering up glorious songs that re-imagine the past and present.