I happened to be in the Senate gallery yesterday to witness the brief discussion on the state budget compromise worked out between the Senate and House leadership and the Gang of Five Democrats in the House.
The debate on the bill kicked off with a move by Democrats to sever a section that would extend the unemployment benefits that have been held hostage since early April by the GOP leadership.
The use of the now 47,000 people as a bargaining chip is awful enough, especially since there is no cost to the state to extend these benefits. The number of people losing their payments keeps increasing while this shameful behavior continues. During discussions, derision of the unemployed has been an unfortunate aspect of the rhetoric. During the debate yesterday, there was a particularly appalling example of the lack of respect shown to the unemployed and their families.
In a back and forth between Senator Malcolm Graham, who called for quick passage of a standalone bill on the benefits extension, and Rules Committee chair Senator Tom Apodaca, who insisted it stay in the budget, Graham noted the uncertainty faced by families. He listed their worries and among many was a concern about how they might be able to afford to send a child to a summer camp. In a truly callous display of hubris Apodaca said people who are unemployed shouldn’t even consider such a thing.
There are no doubt hundreds of thousands of North Carolina families whose breadwinners are employed, under-employed and unemployed that are struggling to make ends meet and trying to budget for summer camp. In recognition of the positive impact some of these camps have on children, many churches, schools and non-profits provide scholarships and subsidies to low and moderate income families. To say that the children from these families – including those having their lives turned upside down through political gamesmanship – don’t deserve access to camps is another example of the crass class warfare embraced by the current leadership.
The following two-minute exchange was captured by the folks at NC Policy Watch. Apodaca’s comment about camps is at the end. His office phone number is (919) 733-5745.