Why the UI Extension is Probably Dead

John BoehnerThe Senate managed to overcome a filibuster because a whole six Republicans voted to allow formal debate on a bill that would provide extended unemployment benefits for another three months. Wow. What an amazing show of empathy and compassion from the party that hugs the Bible so close to its chest. Only 37 Republicans (Just 86%!) of those present voted not to allow debate about extend unemployment insurance. This is what we call a triumph of bipartisanship!

Of course, it basically means nothing. The Senate has passed a lot of stuff in the past that hasn’t gone anywhere. John Harwood laid out the current situation:

I know he’s serious because Harwood is not a jokester. To me, it would have been clear enough to tweet, “Boehner aide: despite Senate procedural vote, unemployment benefits extension likely to go to the House of Representatives.” Under the control the modern Republican Party, that is nowhere. You know the old song:

Nowhere under the rainbow
Boehner leads
It’s a land where Reps shows that
Obstruction is their creed.

For some reason, Jonathan Chait is sounding very optimistic this morning, How Democrats Can Force Republicans to Help the Unemployed. His basic idea is to tell the Republicans that unless they pass the unemployment extension, they will scuttle the Farm Bill. I don’t think that will work, but Chait is certainly right when he says, “Agriculture subsidies are a huge, bloated entitlement that shouldn’t exist at all on the merits, but Republicans like them because they benefit rich white people.” Again: wow. I didn’t think Chait was willing to come right out and speak the truth on that matter.

He also brought up an issue that is very aggravating to us liberals:

[M]ost Republicans in Congress are approaching the issue more delicately. Instead, they are professing to favor an extension of emergency benefits, but only if the measure is paid for with offsetting spending cuts. To simply extend unemployment benefits would “add to the deficit in an irresponsible way,” complains Republican Senator Mark Kirk. Boehner has made similarly noncommittal noises.

This isn’t a genuine expression of concern for the size of the deficit. When Republicans actually care about a policy that adds to the deficit, they just pass it and put it on the credit card. That’s how they passed the immensely costly extension of the expiring Bush tax cuts. For that matter, that’s how they passed every deficit-increasing measure during the entire time they controlled the government under Bush—wars, tax cuts, drug benefits, energy subsidies, surges—they put them all on the tab. Demanding an offset is how you stop a policy you don’t care about without having to admit you don’t care about it.

This is all quite true, but it is also the kind of thing that liberals tell each other. Conservatives tell themselves something different, “Well, the deficit wasn’t so bad back then. Anyway, we’ve learned our lesson!” This is total crap, but I think it is important for liberals to understand that this is what conservatives are thinking. It can be easily destroyed with a little history. When Reagan was running for president, one of his biggest complaints was our out of control spending. Once he was in office, he ballooned the deficit in unprecedented ways. Once Clinton was in office, the budget again became a big deal. But then once it was actually balanced, the Republicans claimed that that was a bad thing. Still, deficits mattered, but surpluses were no good. So Bush got rid of the surpluses and then some and then some more. It was, after all, under Bush that we got our first trillion dollar deficit. Under Obama, that deficit has nearly been cut in half. But today, all the Republicans claim that Bush was wrong. Again, while a Democrat is in the White House, the Republicans have learned their lesson: budget deficits are bad. So any claim by Republicans that this time is different and that they aren’t like old Republicans is just bunk.

Jonathan ChaitOf course, Chait is only talking about the past. If the Democrats offered up a huge tax cut for the rich, the Republicans would not be concerned about adding “to the deficit in an irresponsible way.” If it was an unnecessary war with Iran, there would be no budgetary concerns. In fact, it wouldn’t matter what the money was spent on, as long as it ultimately went to the rich. This is why Republicans continue to push the totally refuted claim that “tax cuts pay for themselves.”

The reason that Republicans scream “class warfare” every time income inequality is brought up by liberals is that the Republican Party really is engaged in a class war. This is why last year at this time they had no problem getting rid of the highly progressive payroll tax holiday, but fought to the end to stop taxes going up a couple of percentage points on the rich. The problem with hopeful articles like Chait’s is that liberals tend to underestimate just how much the Republicans hate the poor. Sure, they want to give money to rich white farmers. But they don’t want to do it as much as they want to take money away from the poor, who I assume they always image as black.

But Chait could be right. I hope that he is. But recent history has shown that you can’t “triangulate” Republicans. They are determined to hurt the poor and (just as important) stop Obama from getting anything he wants.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

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