Do you know how many 37,000 of something is? To give it a bit of context, we are talking the population of entire cities, or the number of patent applications filed in India last year, or, closer to home, the number of unemployed North Carolinians who have been waiting almost a month for their unemployment benefits to be restored. 37,000 is a really big number. So big, in fact, that you might think the members of the General Assembly who decided to lump unemployment benefits into a completely unrelated budget bill last month might be feeling some heat for their incredibly callous and cold-hearted political calculation.
You would, however, be wrong.
Last week, nearly all the Democrats in the House signed what is called a discharge petition, which would basically move the solution to this problem out of the committee in which it sits. The problem is that the Democrats need more signatures than there are Democrats to make this happen, and Republicans are loathe to break ranks and allow a resolution to this problem.
And so we wait. And 37,000 of our fellow citizens wait with us. The problem, of course, is that we can afford to wait - they cannot. They have rent to pay (which is now a weeks overdue), utility bills to deal with, and children who are hungry. They did not ask to be thrust into the middle of a political debate any more than they asked to be unemployed, yet they have no choice. They are stuck.
We are all a bit overwhelmed with the junk that is coming out of the General Assembly in the past few months, but this is completely inexcusable behavior on the part of lawmakers in Raleigh. Using unemployed workers as political pawns is beyond the pale of regular partisan politics - it is downright evil.
Politicians may not be responding to the pleas of these 37,000 people now, but we're sure those are folks who are not going to forget the brazen and foolish way their lives were toyed with once election season comes around. People may not remember how you voted for this bill or that, but when you force a family out on the street, people tend to remember whom to blame.
While House Republicans may regard these folks as expendable right now, they may soon have a new way of counting to 37,000 - in enemies.
Cross-posted from NCSJP