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Originally published April 13, 2010 at 3:52 PM | Page modified April 14, 2010 at 9:22 AM

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The GOP targets deficits, picks on the unemployed

Republican Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma is going after benefits for the nation's unemployed in his campaign to fight federal deficits. Cheap shots at those cannot defend themselves with lobbyists and campaign contributions.

REPUBLICAN game playing with federal unemployment benefits is especially shameful in light of economic conditions only expected to slowly recover in 2011.

The human toll of the Great Recession is extraordinary. The Labor Department now reports 44 percent of the 15 million unemployed have been out of work more than six months. Of those long-term unemployed, more than two-thirds have not had a job or pay check for a year or longer.

In the midst of the anxiety and suffering, the likes of Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., are caught up in a parsimonious political pantomime, as the ever vigilant overseers of the public tax dollars.

Nevermind that Coburn and the GOP were in charge as the federal deficit doubled and the economy was looted as somnolent congressional committees and government regulators dozed.

Unemployment checks go straight to landlords, grocers, creditors and medical bills. They represent an economic stimulus plan grounded in human suffering too often brought on by outside forces.

Coburn has the haughty hubris of the fully employed ideologue. He is shocked — shocked — by the government spending he sees around him, so he starts with the unemployed to go after waste, fraud and abuse. They have no lobbyists and they do not write large campaign checks.

If the end of the recession is not in sight, the beginning has been defined. Economists surveyed by The Associated Press put the start at December 2007, earlier than most people thought. Optimists believe the recession ended in summer 2009, but lots of skeptics and statistics argue otherwise.

Unemployment is expected to stay high for the next two years, and housing prices are predicted to be flat for the same period. An estimated 5.5 people are chasing after every job opening that attracted two applicants in 2007.

The nation's economy is still ailing, and we are all in this for a longer period. Helping those without work to sustain themselves until things improve is hardly a radical economic concept.

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