Sneaking expensive entitlements into long-term national policy is craven, dishonest, and continues the dangerous trend of sloppy, election-driven legislating that has become virtually standard operating practice in recent years. Senate Republicans generated some hope for transparency and the future of honest debate on governing philosophy by using the threat of a filibuster to block yet another extension of the supposedly “short-term” extensions of unemployment benefits.
I’ve written about this recently, so I won’t belabor it, but there was nothing in Democratic rhetoric surrounding the extension to disprove my suspicion, which was full-blown three years ago, that this is nothing but a strategy for embedding a permanent government subsidy of unemployment without a national debate regarding the consequences of such a policy. A ‘temporary” benefit is permanent if elected representatives lack the integrity and courage to end it; for an example one need only look to the supposedly short-term “Bush tax cuts,” which a Democratic President and legislature, despite exorbitant rhetoric about how irresponsible they were (and irresponsible they were), extended, and they are in place still. There is not a single Democratic argument in favor of the supposedly temporary extension that would not apply to a policy of paying the unemployed forever. Here are some quotes from “The Hill” yesterday:
- “We’re one Republican vote away from restoring benefits to 1.7 million Americans. There is one Republican vote standing in the way of a lifeline to these 1.7 million people.”-—Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.)
1.7 million, 1 million, 657,000…when would such benefits not qualify, in Reid’s words, as a “lifeline”? If the answer is never, and it is, why would anyone believe these are intended to be temporary benefits? Isn’t the money just as crucial to an unemployed worker whether he or she has 1.7 million companions in misery, or fewer?
- “We cannot allow one vote to stand in the way of supporting these Americans as they struggle to find work. Both sides of the aisle have worked together to prevent this kind of hardship in the past, and neglecting to do so now is unacceptable — especially given the high long-term unemployment rate.” —White House press secretary Jay Carney
“This kind of hardship” is called unemployment, and it was the same hardship before the benefits were indefinitely extended. As a nation that has, supposedly, decided to relay on personal responsibility, private enterprise and the market system, the United States made a cultural decision that the state would not permanently care for the unemployed, as in many European socialist nations…like Greece. The elimination of open-ended Welfare benefits under President Clinton was based on the discouraging results of that program. If the Democrats want to go backward—and they obviously do—let them argue for the permanent policy change, not accomplish their goal by a disingenuous series of endless “extensions” backed by emotional appeals. Note that Carney only said “especially” in reference to the high long-term employment rate. That means that he, and his President, and his party, also regard not extending benefits when there is not a high long-term employment rate, but just a normal one, “unacceptable.” Of course they do. That is what this is all about: Rahm Emanuel’s infamous, “Never let a good crisis go to waste.” Let’s impose a guaranteed income for all Americans, using the unemployment crisis as the wedge!
- “And every week [Republicans] delay, another 73,000 Americans lose these crucial benefits — benefits that help them keep food on the table and a roof over their heads while they search for a job.”— Reid.
This is a lie, you know. 73,000 Americans a week do not need these benefits, which are not means tested, to keep food on the table and a roof over their heads while they search for a job.” Why wouldn’t Reid say exactly the same thing if 50,000, or 25,000, or 1,000 Americans were losing their benefits? “If we can stop one child from going hungry..”
The last time I wrote about this, one of the site’s partisan defenders pointed out that the extensions have been tied to the unemployment rate reaching 6%. So what? All of the rhetoric above could be, and as far as I can see, will be used to try to shame opponents into extending benefits until the number is 5%, or 3%…or 0%. Can’t you hear Harry weeping about the plight of the rare unlucky families who don’t have paychecks coming in during the booming economy?
I was certain that the Republicans would be unable to stand up to this. CNN led its story on the extension’s defeat with this, in part…
“Thursday’s vote in the Senate was third time Democrats have attempted unsuccessfully to pass legislation intended to help some 1.7 million people who have had their benefits cut off since the recession-era program expired on December 28. It has been extended 11 times since 2008 and doing so again is popular with 60% of Americans behind it, according to national polls. But the Republican-led House has yet to take any action and the majority of GOP members in the Senate don’t want it renewed. It doesn’t seem like good politics but it is a position Republicans are sticking to.Why?”
Gee, for some reason giving money away and paying people not to work is popular with a majority! Then why wouldn’t any legislator not back such a policy? It’s not as if they are supposed to consider the best interests of the nation, fiscally and socially, after all—isn’t their only purpose to hold power?
I’m not going to be patient with commenters who say that this post isn’t empathetic with the unemployed. I’ve had my benefits run out. I’ve had to pay a mortgage with the bank account bare: I have no regular paycheck. I have members of my family who I love and worry about out of work. But caring about them means helping them to find jobs and be motivated, creative and diligent, not just handing them easy money every week. This is the United States, and at least as of this moment, the nation had chosen individual enterprise over the government’s perpetual womb, and for the most part, the choice has served us well. If America decides, fully informed and without campaigns of disinformation (like, “If you like your health insurance, you can keep your health insurance,” just to cite a wild hypothetical) to become a full-fledged European, nanny-state socialist nation where the government pays the living expenses for everyone by taking the earned resources of those who have successfully managed to support themselves, that’s fine with me. It’s a democracy: let’s have the debate. Let the progressives and Democrats state, honestly, openly, transparently, exactly what policies they want to put in place forever.
This “temporary extension” ploy is the policy equivalent of crack cocaine, and the Republicans were correct and courageous to stop it.