Sometimes it’s difficult to look at politics without being just a little bit cynical. Last night we posted the story about research confirming that as income inequality rises, poor American voters turn more conservative. Now, as relatively rational people, that just doesn’t make sense to us. It looks pretty obvious that the Republican “leadership” is way ahead of us on this one. Just take a look at two reports coming out of Washington today:
The Huffington Post reports that:
WASHINGTON — Congressional Republicans are pushing to strip the Federal Reserve of its authority to address unemployment, leaving it with the lone responsibility to combat inflation. Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), a key member of the Senate Banking Committee, became on Monday the latest Republican to propose that the central bank stop worrying itself with the jobless crisis.
“It is time that we work to clarify the mandate of the Federal Reserve,” Corker said in a statement. “Providing our central bank with a clear and explicit focus on keeping inflation low will serve America better than the broader mandate approach we have today.”
Congress, meanwhile, has not made a major attempt to address the unemployment crisis since passing the stimulus in early 2009, leaving the Fed as the policymaker of last resort for the jobless. An emergency extension of unemployment insurance is set to expire if Congress doesn’t act shortly, prematurely costing two million people their benefits by the end of the year.
Also today, The Wall Street Journal reported:
Congress is unlikely to agree to extend jobless benefits for two million unemployed workers by the time the program begins to lapse in two weeks, as lawmakers struggle with a packed lame-duck session and voter antipathy toward government spending.
But cutting off benefits could drag on a fragile economic recovery by reducing consumer spending, economists say, and Democrats are looking for a compromise that could put the program back on track before Christmas.
Republicans seem to hate extending benefits for America’s long-term unemployed so much that Tea Party fave Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) told George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s “Good Morning America” that she would not support a temporary extension of tax cuts to all Americans if it is tied to an extension of federal unemployment benefits.
That “voter antipathy” that the WSJ mentions? A Hart Research Poll released yesterday showed overwhelming voter support for unemployment benefit extensions:
- 60% support Congress continuing unemployment benefits for workers who have exhausted their state unemployment benefits
- 73% say that unemployment rate at 9.6% and millions still out of work, it is too early to cut back benefits because of deficit concerns
- 67% say they want the government to provide benefits until the unemployment rate comes down substantially
So, let’s recap: we have economists, The Wall Street Journal, The Labor Department and American voters … all agreeing that unemployment benefits are critically important to millions of Americans. And, critically important to the U.S. economy: for every $1 spent in benefits, there is a $2 positive impact on our economy.
Oh, and we have one more piece of the puzzle: Republicans doing everything they can to make sure that those unemployment benefits are not extended. Why? Yes, we know what they’re going to say. THE DEFICIT!
The Economic Policy Institute estimates that reauthorizing the benefits for another full year will cost $65 billion as it creates more than 700,000 jobs. But, Republicans are adamant on adding more than 10 times that amount to the deficit–$700 billion with the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. So, the deficit can’t be that important to them.
Rationally, it just doesn’t add up. Unless you approach it a little cynically. Republican leadership already knows that as economic inequality rises, the poor turn more conservative. So, rationally, what’s better for the GOP than two more years of economic turmoil and an ever widening gap between the “haves” and the “have nots”?
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
The Huffington Post: GOP Wants To Strip Fed Of Power To Combat Joblessness
The Wall Street Journal: Spending Worries Put Jobless Benefits at Risk
Hart Research Poll
LA Times: Majority of Americans support unemployment insurance extension
The Labor Department
Economic Policy Institute
Paul Krugman: Doing It Again