I have the most frustrating political existence on the face of the earth. I am a real Democrat and a constituent of Claire McCaskill. I defy anyone who isn’t a Mary Landrieu constituent to make the case that they are more frustrated with their ostensibly-Democratic Senator than I am.

What is Claire McCaskill thinking? Sometimes I honestly believe that she gets up in the morning and consciously, deliberately thinks “It’s been a while since I pissed Blue Girl off, I better do something about that.”

Today was one of those days.

President Barack Obama is for extending unemployment but it may run out if Congress does not act soon to continue long-term unemployment assistance.

Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill told News 4 that she does not support extending any unemployment benefits any further.  

Senator McCaskill was touring Trinity Products in St. Charles to discuss creating jobs and the deficit with the company employees.

Senator McCaskill also told News 4 that she supports payroll tax cuts because “that helps our consuming economy.”

God-damnit, Claire. What the hell are you thinking?

Okay, I know what she’s thinking. She’s thinking she has to run for reelection in this red state, and she has to be tough and “fiscally responsible” to get out-state votes. Here’s the deal, though. She is going to pull the 35% die-hard, Grandma-remembers-Roosevelt-and-once-met-Harry-Truman Democrats who live out there. It’s not her fault that there is no Democratic presence in the rural areas, it’s the fault of the state party that just deserted the rural areas and abandoned their rural members to the vagaries of wingnuts, ideologues and movement conservatives who live in denial, failing to recognize the failures of the philosophy itself. Conservatism can’t fail, doncha know, it can only be failed.

It’s a stupid notion, and it really, really pisses me off when Democrats buy into their nonsense. Nonsense is still nonsense, even when it’s bipartisan nonsense.

The fact of the matter is, payroll tax cuts are a really bad idea because that shortfall that isn’t being paid in to Social Security will have to be made up from the General Fund and that, in the long run, will undermine Social Security. It get’s none of it’s revenue from the General Fund, that’s why they’ve not been able to kill it yet. Once the first dime comes from the General Fund, it get’s rebranded as “welfare” and you can write the obituary for Social Security.

No, payroll tax cuts are a horrible idea. Boo. Hiss, even.

But you know what else really jumped out at me and made me want to scream? Putting money in the hands of the unemployed is the most effective economic stimulus there is. But don’t take my word for it — Paul Krugman and his Nobel Prize in Economics are far better qualified to speak on the matter than I am, and he’s been shooting down this nonsense for a couple of years now.

Do unemployment benefits reduce the incentive to seek work? Yes: workers receiving unemployment benefits aren’t quite as desperate as workers without benefits, and are likely to be slightly more choosy about accepting new jobs. The operative word here is “slightly”: recent economic research suggests that the effect of unemployment benefits on worker behavior is much weaker than was previously believed. Still, it’s a real effect when the economy is doing well.

But it’s an effect that is completely irrelevant to our current situation. When the economy is booming, and lack of sufficient willing workers is limiting growth, generous unemployment benefits may keep employment lower than it would have been otherwise. But as you may have noticed, right now the economy isn’t booming — again, there are five unemployed workers for every job opening. Cutting off benefits to the unemployed will make them even more desperate for work — but they can’t take jobs that aren’t there.

Wait: there’s more. One main reason there aren’t enough jobs right now is weak consumer demand. Helping the unemployed, by putting money in the pockets of people who badly need it, helps support consumer spending. That’s why the Congressional Budget Office rates aid to the unemployed as a highly cost-effective form of economic stimulus. And unlike, say, large infrastructure projects, aid to the unemployed creates jobs quickly — while allowing that aid to lapse, which is what is happening right now, is a recipe for even weaker job growth, not in the distant future but over the next few months.

But won’t extending unemployment benefits worsen the budget deficit? Yes, slightly — but as I and others have been arguing at length, penny-pinching in the midst of a severely depressed economy is no way to deal with our long-run budget problems. And penny-pinching at the expense of the unemployed is cruel as well as misguided.

So, is there any chance that these arguments will get through? Not, I fear, to Republicans: “It is difficult to get a man to understand something,” said Upton Sinclair, “when his salary” — or, in this case, his hope of retaking Congress — “depends upon his not understanding it.” But there are also centrist Democrats who have bought into the arguments against helping the unemployed. It’s up to them to step back, realize that they have been misled — and do the right thing by passing extended benefits.

And of course there’s the CBO. They have found over and over again that the most effective form of economic stimulus that the government can provide is jobless benefits. The people who receive that money spend that money. Immediately. They buy food and gasoline and school supplies and clothes. They pay their rent and their utilities and their phone bills. That money is fuel for the economy on the micro level.

Claire is wrong here. She isn’t merely wrong, she’s as wrong as wrong can be. And damnit, she knows better. It’s crass, political pandering of the most base and vile kind that leads her to take up such a stupid and wrong position and I hope she has the good sense to back off from it and realize the error of her ways and apologize to us city liberals now, because pissing us off for votes from outstate that aren’t going to materialize anyway is not how she hangs onto her seat.

UPDATE: Claire Clarifies, presumably after catching hell…

As Congress continues to wrestle with the ongoing fiscal crisis and the economy, lawmakers are going on record with their positions.  Here is what News 4 is hearing from Senator Claire McCaskill, who yesterday was quoted as saying she opposed extending unemployment benefits when she was asked if she supported President Obama’s plan to extend unemployment benefits and payroll tax cuts.  This is a clarification of that interview.

Currently, the federal government is operating an emergency program which provides unemployment benefits beyond the basic benefit of 26 weeks (Missouri recently reduced its basic benefit to 20 weeks).  The current emergency program allows the unemployed in most states to collect up to 99 weeks of unemployment benefits.  Senator McCaskill supports this package.   The emergency benefit program that provides up to 99 weeks is set to expire at the end of the year and will have to be extended for the 99 weeks of benefits to continue to be available.

There are some proposals in Congress that would extend the emergency benefit program to 113 total weeks, amounting to 14 more weeks than the current 99 week extended benefit.   Senator McCaskill is opposed to extending benefits this extra 14 weeks to 113 weeks.