Who’s out of touch, D.C.?

Those who have never read George Orwell's short essay, “Politics and the English Language,” probably should: http://n.pr/1hJPPsQ

“Millionaires and drug addicts should not be receiving these benefits.”

That’s how U.S. Rep. Mark Amodei of Nevada responded to a Reno woman who contacted his office recently to urge his support for the extension of federal unemployment benefits.

She is neither a millionaire nor a drug addict and was more than a little insulted at his flip characterization of those struggling to re-enter the job market.

Amodei went on to say he was hearing from unnamed employers in Nevada “who offer jobs; potential employees inform them that staying on unemployment is better than their offer. When individuals talk about being on taxpayer benefits is a better deal than being in the workforce, I think that must be examined.”

Without commenting on the awkward grammar of that last sentence, or four other errors I counted in the letter, one has to wonder about the last time Amodei talked to a real unemployed constituent instead of a phantom company supposedly representing Nevada’s employers. And why don’t businesses consider raising wages if it’s so hard to find employees?

Even if the fantasy employer is real, it’s a stretch to say that unemployed Nevadans would rather stay on public assistance than accept a decent job with benefits. And it’s beyond insulting to infer that Nevada’s long-term unemployed are millionaires and drug addicts.

This particular constituent is an older woman with lots of office experience who is having trouble matching the keyboard and computer skills of the young. State and county jobs she applies for—you know, the ones with health care—attract literally hundreds of people, even for entry-level jobs. She usually makes it to the second interview, but in the end loses out to younger, more adaptable people with, presumably, fewer health care needs. Her experience is validated by national statistics that show those over 45 have a much harder time re-entering the workforce.

She’s understandably frustrated at federal and state job training agencies that offer her a typing test to document her skill level but won’t help her enroll in a class to improve her typing speed. She’s too proud to apply for food stamps but is worried about losing all her assets that have taken a lifetime to build because the Republican-controlled Congress has decided she’s not worthy of extended benefits.

She can’t understand why the U.S. House member she voted for has no empathy for her plight, in a state with record-breaking unemployment.

Nevada Republican Sen. Dean Heller was a primary sponsor of S. 2148, a bill that would have extended emergency unemployment assistance to the long-term unemployed retroactively to last December when they ran out, and Congress refused to act. However, Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, quashed any possibility of that bill passing last month when he declared it dead until “Washington Democrats” agreed to rewrite the bill to gut other programs and “guarantee” job growth.

Despite polls that show 68 percent of Americans support extending unemployment benefits, Republican congressmembers in safe districts like Amodei’s are unlikely to respond, given their fear of a primary from the right. Heller might need moderate and independent voters, but all Amodei needs to be concerned with is a challenge from within his own party.

This political stalemate leaves the unemployed 50-ish woman in Reno infuriated and disillusioned with a government that has left her adrift at an age when she should be earning her highest salary in anticipation of retirement in her next decade. She’s had no income since Dec. 28, 2013, and would take any kind of relevant job. She believes she is being blamed for a societal catastrophe.

She feels betrayed by a representative who says he’s “concerned” but is unwilling to act on her behalf.

He’s too worried about those unemployed millionaires and drug addicts.