In a surprising move Tuesday, six Republicans joined Senate Democrats to break a filibuster and advance a three-month revival of unemployment insurance that recently expired for some 1.3 million Americans.
On the off-chance that you’re wondering, Roy Blunt, our Republican Senator from Missouri was not among the Republicans who were at least willing to discuss putting the welfare of jobless Americans before partisan ideology – in spite of the fact that, as the St. Louis Post-Dispatch‘s Tony Messenger points out, people don’t have jobs because there aren’t any to be had:
Both liberal and conservative economists point out that the long-term unemployment problem is as bad as it’s been since after World War II. Kevin Hassett, an economist with the conservative American Enterprise Institute and former adviser to Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, calls it “a huge emergency.”
So far, two days later, there’s no statement from Blunt – that I can find, at any rate – explaining his vote, so we’ll have to extrapolate for the time being from his past rhetoric and his predictable willingness to always toe the party line. My guess is that he’ll make some half-hearted statement that repeats one or the other of the strategies many in his party are adopting to try to take the sting out of their heartlessness: to wit, unemployment benefits somehow hurt the jobless, discourage full-employment, and that fiscal responsibility demands spending offsets.
The last reason, the demand for spending offsets, is especially risible. When Democrats in the House did, during the original budget negotiations, offer to pay for extending unemployment benefits by cutting agriculture subsidies – those very subsidies enjoyed by our Missouri Rep. Vicky Hartzler, incidentally – that wasn’t the type of spending cut that Republicans were willing to accept.
But there are, of course, other types of corporate welfare that could be cut in order to pay for extending jobless benefits. Oil subsidies, for instance. I’m going to be waiting with baited breath for Senator Blunt’s effort to excuse his vote(s). If I hear one word about fiscal responsibility from Senator “Big Oil” Blunt, the go-to guy for the energy industry who thinks oil subsidies, along with other types of corporate welfare are always just tickety-boo, I’ll spit. And if anyone buys this crap coming from Blunt, I might suffer cardiac arrest. Why not? Who wants to live in a world where folks are so stupid that they’ll buy Roy Blunt as a fiscal conservative?
In fact, who wants to live in a world where anyone buys the GOP as the party of fiscal responsibility? Spending offsets are simply a strategy designed to deflect disapproval and disguise a turnip as cake – as in let them eat cake. There’s a reason that the House leadership is trying to soften GOP rhetoric on the topic. But no matter how they talk about it, it’s hard to make meanness attractive. As Brian Buetler notes in Salon:
But conservatives – even reform conservatives – are oddly indignant about the suggestion that they would support doing something that actually helps the poor. As always, for any given way of helping people, conservatives are against it because there’s some other better way. But they never actually favor helping.