Missouri state SenatorÂ Jim Lembke (R- St. Louis) is taking a symbolic stand against excessive government spending. He's not protesting bank bail-outs. He isn't protesting tax breaks for the rich. Oh, no. He is protesting the federal government's contribution to long-term unemployment benefits.
Senator Lembke and a small group of his supporters effectively filibustered a bill from passing in the Missouri legislature that would have allowed the state to accept federal funds to help the state's unemployed continue to receive benefits for up to 99 weeks. Currently, the state pays unemployment for 79 weeks.
The session has taken a 10-day spring break, at which point, the legislature will meet again to try to pass the bill. It originally received wide support in the House, passing 123-14. Even other Republican leaders tried to convince Lembke to allow the bill's passage. But he stood firm.
By the time the Senate meets again, however, many folks on extended unemployment will have had their benefits cut off. The cut-off date is March 27. The legislature does not meet again until April 1.
Let's crunch some numbers here for some clarity. The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the current unemployment rate for February, 2011 was 8.9 percent. The United States population is over 311 million. An 8.9 percent unemployment rate equals more than 27 million people currently out of work. When you do this math, the 192,000 jobs that were added last month just doesn't seem like much, does it?
Lembke justified his decision, stating:
"WeÂ’re saying to Washington, D.C., Â‘You should be ashamed of yourselves. You are mortgaging our future,Â’?Â” Lembke said during floor debate earlier this week. Â“WeÂ’re saying, Â‘You are putting in jeopardy our republic, shame on you, and we are not going to participate any longer."
Another Senator, Will Kraus, decided that since the Internet had a few jobs listed on employment sites, there should be plenty of them to go around for all of Missouri's Â 43,557 people whoÂ filed an initial unemployment claim in November. And, oh yeah, 11,700 more people are currently receiving extended unemployment in the state.
On the MissouriJobs.com website, 31 positions are listed for the St. Louis area. Many of those are sales and out of state. For example, a part-time administrative/clerical position that's listed is not located in St. Louis. It's located in Franklin, Wisconsin. Or how about the bioinformatics specialist position -- located in Hamilton Montana?
Such measures as Lembke and his supporters have taken to stop people from receiving benefits that could keep them from disaster is heartless, cruel and just plain dumb. If he really wants to see an end to wasteful federal spending, he would petition the White House to Stop spending a ridiculous amount of money fighting a drug war that can't be won.