Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Phony frugality

Extended unemployment insurance benefits have once again expired due to Republicans' phony concerns regarding the deficit. Bloomberg reports
Thousands of Americans are set to begin losing unemployment benefits after Congress failed to agree on extending aid to the long-term unemployed.

In a replay of a dispute earlier this year, lawmakers are deadlocked over how to finance an extension even as the aid starts to lapse. Democrats yesterday offered to extend benefits for a year, with the $56 billion cost financed with borrowed money.

Republicans balked, demanding the extension be offset with savings elsewhere in the government’s budget.
Republicans express no such concerns regarding the budget-busting $700 billion tax cut for America's richest 1/20th of households. There's no cry that those revenue losses be plugged. They're even willing to hold all other legislation, including tax cuts for the other 19/20ths of households and ratification of the revised START treaty hostage.

It wasn't that long ago that extended assistance to the jobless was routinely granted in recessions and that helping luckless people who had histories of work had bipartisan support. Not so much anymore.

With the unemployment rate still near 10 percent, with just over 40 percent of unemployment spells lasting more than six months, and with state unemployment funds being tapped out because of the length and depth of the recession, an extension is more than warranted. However, what's a little more immiseration when tax cuts for the rich are at stake.