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Friday, November 22, 2002
 
Humbug!


Whether it be from portrayals by Michel Bouquet, Reginald Owen, John Carradine, William Peterson, George C. Scott, Jeremy Kerridge, Patrick Stewart, Bill Murray, even Bugs Bunny, or (gasp!) reading it ourselves, we are all familar with the story of Ebeneezer Scrooge and Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. One of the most memorable scenes is the horrifying conversation between Scrooge and a man asking him for a charitable contribution:

`At this festive season of the year, Mr. Scrooge,'
said the gentleman, taking up a pen, `it is more than
usually desirable that we should make some slight
provision for the Poor and Destitute, who suffer
greatly at the present time. Many thousands are in
want of common necessaries; hundreds of thousands
are in want of common comforts, sir.'

`Are there no prisons?' asked Scrooge.

`Plenty of prisons,' said the gentleman, laying down
the pen again.
`And the Union workhouses?' demanded Scrooge.
`Are they still in operation?'

`They are. Still,' returned the gentleman, `I wish
I could say they were not.'

`The Treadmill and the Poor Law are in full vigour,
then?' said Scrooge.

`Both very busy, sir.'

`Oh! I was afraid, from what you said at first,
that something had occurred to stop them in their
useful course,' said Scrooge. `I'm very glad to
hear it.'

`Under the impression that they scarcely furnish
Christian cheer of mind or body to the multitude,'
returned the gentleman, `a few of us are endeavouring
to raise a fund to buy the Poor some meat and drink.
and means of warmth. We choose this time, because
it is a time, of all others, when Want is keenly felt,
and Abundance rejoices. What shall I put you down
for?'

`Nothing!' Scrooge replied.

`You wish to be anonymous?'

`I wish to be left alone,' said Scrooge. `Since you
ask me what I wish, gentlemen, that is my answer.
I don't make merry myself at Christmas and I can't
afford to make idle people merry. I help to support
the establishments I have mentioned -- they cost
enough; and those who are badly off must go there.'

`Many can't go there; and many would rather die.'

`If they would rather die,' said Scrooge, `they had
better do it, and decrease the surplus population.
Besides -- excuse me -- I don't know that.'


If the House of Representatives does not act soon, 830,000 people will lose their unemployment benefits three days after Christmas. Let's put aside the economic stimulus 830,000 families spending at Christmas-time would add. Not acting now may be an act of conservatism, but it surely is not compassionate. It's an act worthy of Scrooge.

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