Protecting hard-working families is a battle worth fighting. Creating jobs and standing up for those who are struggling in this desperate economy is at the very heart of what Congress should be doing. And moving past the fiery rhetoric and bipartisanship to become a governmental body working for the people, instead of against them, is a responsibility I take very seriously.
On each Wednesday night for probably the last ten or twelve years, our church has provided food for those who are in need. Not long ago a gentleman came to our church and picked up food. Later that night as I was leaving church I ran into him at a 7-11. You can imagine how troubled I was when I saw him buying a lottery ticket. I thought to myself, this guy's just ripped off the church and is using his money for a lottery ticket.
So I waited for him outside the store, and when he came out I said to him, "Look, I'm a little concerned because you picked up a sack of groceries and then you just spent money on a lottery ticket. And those two just don't match." And he said, "Well, I probably shouldn't have spent the money on the lottery. But you know, Reverend, a man's got to have some hope."
And while I think that hope is misplaced, the truth of the matter is, he was absolutely correct. It is virtually impossible to live any kind of productive life on this planet without hope.
There are millions of Americans who unfortunately cannot place their hope in this body. I think that I can state without fear of contradiction that the dysfunctionality of the United States Congress is helping to erase hope from the men and women in this country who are struggling. All of the back and forth and blaming each other has nothing to do with providing hope. And quite often we allow ideology to trump logic.
We decide almost every day that no matter what, "I'm going to take the position of the Republicans," or 'I'm going to take the position of the Democrats." And as a result we have polluted the public. This is one of the nastiest moments in U.S. History.
Just look at television. Look at all of the so-called reality shows, the ones that are most popular are ones where people are doing things to each other or insulting each other. You are fired, or you've got to eat live spiders. That's what we are coming to.
A perfect example of what we're doing is NOT addressing the expiring unemployment benefits. At the end of this year almost two million Americans they have names, they have faces, they have families two million Americans will lose their unemployment benefits and a total of over six million Americans will lose benefits next year, unless this body decides to become functional.
In Missouri, my home state, 40,400 citizens depend on unemployment benefits. Many more are unemployed and not receiving any help at all. In Missouri the unemployment rate is almost 9 percent.
I grew up in public housing. Yes, public housing. My father worked three jobs to get us out. He worked three jobs to send me and three sisters through college, and my mother through college when I was in the eighth grade. And so I always resent any implication that people don't want to work.
Extending emergency unemployment benefits is critical. Failure to do so will depress our economic output and raise our risk of slipping back into recession.
The unemployment rate has fallen to 8.6 percent for the first time since March of 2009. We are moving in the right direction. But we have much more work to do and we need to stop bickering and get it done. This is why I am cosponsoring H.R. 3346, legislation to preserve the federal programs through 2012.
And so as we move into a holiday season, a season of hope, my hope is that the Congress of the United States will not snatch hope from over two million Americans.