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.
Today, via Twitter:
Rep. Vicky Hartzler @RepHartzler
Both the Mizzou Tigers and the KC Chiefs are 3-0! Life is good 3:12 PM – 23 Sep 13
Not so good for others:
House votes to cut food stamps by $39 billion
By Pete Kasperowicz and Erik Wasson – 09/19/13 06:09 PM ET
The House approved legislation Thursday that would cut $39 billion in funds over the next decade for food stamp programs.
Members approved H.R. 3102, the Nutrition Reform and Work Opportunity Act, in a close 217-210 vote. No Democrats voted for the bill, and 15 Republicans voted against GOP leaders….
….The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that up to 3.8 million people would lose food stamp benefits next year….
FINAL VOTE RESULTS FOR ROLL CALL 476
H R 3102 YEA-AND-NAY 19-Sep-2013 6:07 PM
QUESTION: On Passage
BILL TITLE: Nutrition Reform and Work Opportunity Act
—- YEAS 217 —
—- NAYS 210 —
—- NOT VOTING 6 —
But, pretty good for some:
These Republicans Who Voted To Cut Food Stamps Personally Received Large Farm Subsidies
Some Republican members of Congress receive their own share of government money.
posted on September 21, 2013 at 3:05pm EDT
Andrew Kaczynski BuzzFeed Staff
….Another Republican congresswoman who voted to make cuts to the food stamp program was Rep. Vicky Hartzler of Missouri. Her farm received more than $800,000 in Department of Agriculture subsidies from 1995-2012. In 2001, her farm received $135,482 in subsidies….
Hey, but both Mizzou and the Chiefs are 3-0, so life is good.
I notice that Hotflash has posted a call to action, asking progressives to turn out Friday to petition our Democratic emissary to Washington, Senator Claire McCaskill, to do what Democrats ought to do reflexively – protect Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, three of the pillars that supported the growth of middle class prosperity in the last century, while mitigating the worst effects of poverty. A worthwhile endeavor for sure, but when the petitioners get to McCaskill’s office, I hope that they ask her why she cares more about the welfare of a few farmers who tied their prosperity to ethanol than she does about seniors and poor children all over the country.
That’s right, Claire plays favorites. As the Post-Dispatch noted, McCaskill was one of those farm-state Democrats that joined the 59 vote majority that killed Senator Tom Curburn’s (R-Oklahoma) effort to get rid of ethanol subsidies and open the U.S. market to more efficient alternative fuels produced in countries like Brazil. Ethanol subsidies are popular with farmers who grow corn and arguably with the fossil-fuel industry that mixes ethanol with gasoline, hoping to reap mucho green credit for so doing – but with just about nobody else, including environmentalists. Nevertheless, since Missouri has lots of farmers who grow corn, it’s easy to see what Claire hopes to gain.
The Post-Dispatch riffs on the obvious dissonance between McCaskill’s loudly-proclaimed deficit-cutting fervor and her eagerness to prolong this particular example of wasteful government spending. And that’s an important point to make. Hypocrisy does gall, even when the hypocrites are politicians who are all expected to master the art early on in their careers.
What strikes me, though, is the sheer unfairness of her priorities. Farmers? Claire’ll be with ’em no matter how much it costs the government. No need to go whinging to her office. Poor children and seniors? Apparently we’ve got to beg her to keep them in mind, and when we’re done begging, we’ll parse her answers carefully to figure out where she’ll finally land – and how hard. We’ll have to cross our fingers that her better angels, her Democratic angels, prevail.
I’m away from Missouri for awhile so I won’t be joining the good souls who will meet at Senator McCaskill’s office on Friday. I only hope they don’t to forget to remind her that we don’t only have farmers here in Missouri; we also have lots of poor children and elderly who have nobody but her in the Senate to defend them against the got-mine mentality of the GOP.
This morning lots of blogging space is properly being given over to indignant chortling about John Boehner’s declaration that the U.S. has to make dangerous and destructive spending cuts because the country is “broke.” The punchline consists in the fact that he is at the same time insisting on retaining funds for a boondoggle defense project that will benefit his home state. I’m speaking of funding to develop a second engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter – a project that even the Pentagon wants to abandon. A wasteful earmark by any other name … eh?
But Boehner isn’t the only GOPer playing Simple Simon – you, know – do as I say, not as I do. Among the five significant categories of wasteful spending identified by Think Progress’ Zaid Jilani where big cuts could be made without significant repercussions are agribusiness subsidies:
The federal government “paid out a quarter of a trillion dollars in federal farm subsidies between 1995 and 2009.” “Just ten percent of America’s largest and richest farms collect almost three-fourths” of these subsidies.
Of course these five areas of expenditure, which almost all, like farm subsidies, benefit the wealthy, have been treated as if they are off-limits by the GOP. Which brings us to Vicky Hartzler (R-4), who when she is not trying to impersonate one of the people’s representatives, is a well-to-do Missouri farmer who has benefited handsomely from those very farm subsidies. Her own good fortune in retaining taxpayer support, no doubt, makes it easy for her to cheer the destruction of programs that benefit those poor and middle class deadbeats who not only benefit from, but often survive thanks to the programs she and her House cronies want to stamp out because we are, you know, “broke.”
PoliticoMo reports that Vicky Hartzler, a Tea Party favorite who ran for office promising to diminish government influence, has no qualms about keeping her government-provided health insurance while voting to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA). According to her spokesman:
The issue was and always has been government-RUN health care … not government providing PRIVATE insurance to its employees.
Not the most sophisticated argument since nothing in the Affordable Care Act mandates “government-run” health care. As FactCheck.org noted in the final run-up to the vote on the ACA last spring:
A pure government-run system was never among the leading Democratic proposals, much to the chagrin of single-payer advocates. Instead, the bill builds on our current system of private insurance, and in fact, drums up more business for private companies by mandating that individuals buy coverage and giving many subsidies to do so.
Hartzler’s excuses are also a bit paradoxical. We the taxpayers, via our proxy, the federal government, are really Hartzler’s employers. She is willing to accept a good, guaranteed health care plan from us, but will do little to insure that we, in turn, have access to affordable health care. Instead, by voting for the repeal of the
AFC ACA, Hartzler is actively working against that goal.
We all know that health care costs have been going up over the past few years; one of the reasons health care reform was so urgent was the pressure of rising health care costs on our national economy. If costs are not brought under control, which the ACA is designed to accomplish, fewer and fewer of our employers will be able to afford to offer the same type of comprehensive private insurance to their employees that Rep. Hartzler thinks she should be able to take for granted while on our dime.
Of course, we probably shouldn’t expect too much from get-the-government-off-our-backs types like Hartzler. Recently when this foe of big government handouts was asked about federal farm subsidies, which have benefited her family to the amount of $750,000 over the past nine years, all she could do was hem and haw – which, embarrassing as it is, is an improvement over her earlier response. At one point Hartzler asserted that farm subsidies might be a national security issue.
Politicians and actors may have some things in common, but as far as Vicky Hartzler is concerned, it’s just a cryin’ shame that politics isn’t more like show business where no publicity is bad publicity. Think Progress looked into Vicky Hartzler’s background and found that the self-described “lifelong farmer and a small town girl” had received “$774,325 in federal subsidies from 1995 to 2009.” Nothing wrong there – unless, like Hartzler, you tell a conservative radio host that “we just want the government to leave us alone here in Missouri’s 4th.” It seems that Hartzler’s slogan is no government interference except when it comes to taxpayer financed farm subsidies. Isn’t this what they call biting the hand that feeds you?
To her credit, Hartzler, as Think Progress notes, seems to knows that there are some people out there who might consider her stance hypocritical and, consequently, does not mention the subsidies when she discusses agriculture on her Webpage. However, if she did decide to “come out,” she would have plenty of Tea Party and GOP company. It’s hard to count all the Tea Partiers who seem to have their hands out for a hand-out – Joe Miller in Alaska and Sharon Angle in Nevada are two of the more recent cases to come to light. Steve Benen, on the topic of Tea Partiers’ proclivity for government welfare, summed it up beautifully:
For the right-wing crowd, subsidies for 32 million Americans with no health insurance is outrageous, but subsidies for conservative farmers is not an issue “at all.