Rick Badie's Gwinnett: Bologna can’t feed folks in a crisis

That fact came to mind the other day when I was at the state employment center in Norcross.

My guess is that some of the people who visited Thursday have made fried bologna, or some version of the low-value meat, a diet staple in these hard times.

On Nov. 6, President Barack Obama signed the unemployment extension legislation. It provides for 14 weeks of extended benefit coverage for every state. It includes an additional six weeks, for a total of 20, in states where unemployment is more than 8.5 percent.

That would be Georgia.

The Peach State’s official jobless rate is 10.2 percent. In metro Atlanta, it’s a tad higher.

In real numbers, about a half-million people are jobless and searching for work.

They are in a market where jobs that once required a bachelor’s degree may demand a master’s. One in which job-hunters outpace openings by more than six to one. One in which employers can be picky. Stingy, too.

Because of all these things, lots of decent folks live on edge. They eat sparingly, fret over utility bills and try to keep mortgage holders or landlords at bay. Needless to say, they could use a lifeline.

Which brings me to Republican Congressman John Linder.

He doesn’t represent my neck of Norcross, but his 7th Congressional District takes in several Gwinnett ZIP codes.

Linder was one of 12 U.S. House members who voted against the latest version of unemployment benefits. I contacted him via e-mail to ask, what gives?

For starters, Linder wrote that he supports an unemployment benefits program.

However, he said the purpose of the recent legislation was to help American families find jobs. It doesn’t, he said.

Moreover, he said the extension doesn’t help entrepreneurs and small businesses grow jobs, something that’s a necessity.

And it puts the burden of paying the costs of the extension on employers, thereby “biting the very hand that feeds us jobs.”

“... The bill treated the symptom, but ignored the disease,” he wrote.

“As the ranking member of the subcommittee responsible for employment issues, I know that we could have done better,” he continued, “and we owe it to millions of Americans seeking work to do better.”

By doing better, Linder means: creating new jobs; providing education and skills training for low-level employees; providing incentives for entrepreneurs and small businesses to hire again.

“Congress missed an opportunity here to provide incentives and, he wrote, “to help private businesses feel confident enough to create jobs.”

All of Linder’s points hold value. The truth of the matter, though, is that none of them matter one iota to someone barely able to keep food on the table and keep the lights on. Throw them a safety net. Now. Figure out all that other jazz later.

And while the jobless get by another few weeks, they’ll spread some of that unemployment check to their local grocer and probably their landlord.

My last question to Linder was tongue-in-cheek. He handled it appropriately.

“As for bologna,” he wrote, “the Linder family didn’t fry it. We ate it plain with mustard.”

Rick Badie, an Opinion columnist, is based in Gwinnett. Reach him at rbadie@ajc.com or 770-263-3875.

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