Because when you scare them, that's how they act. I was watching "Temple Grandin" on HBO the other night and I was thinking how much Democrats are like cows in a poorly-designed cattle chute. They get spooked and start to stampede, even when there's nothing there.
Maybe we should hire Ms. Grandin to examine Congressional behavior and come up with a solution:
WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama's plea for more stimulus spending as insurance against a double-dip recession hit a roadblock in the Senate on Wednesday, the victim of election-year anxiety over huge federal deficits.
A dozen Democrats joined Republicans on a key 52-45 test vote rejecting an Obama-endorsed, $140 billion package of unemployment benefits, aid to states, business and family tax breaks and Medicare payments for doctors because it would swell the federal debt by $80 billion.
The swing toward frugality runs counter to the advice of economists who support the bill's funding for additional jobless benefits and help to states to avoid layoffs of public service jobs. They fear that the economy could slip back into recession just as it's emerging from the biggest economic downturn since the Great Depression.
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke warned last week that while lawmakers need to come up with a plan for tackling the nation's long-term deficit crisis, the U.S. recovery is still fragile. It's too early for large, immediate spending cuts, Bernanke said.
"We've got to do more to build on the existing jobs momentum and that's what these targeted measures are about," said White House economist Jared Bernstein.
The Senate earlier passed another version with even bigger deficits. But that was before tea party-backed candidates running on anti-deficit, anti-big government platforms began knocking off more established politicians in spring primaries.
Despite the loss, Democratic leaders predicted serenely that a scaled-back version of the measure — extending unemployment benefits for the long-term jobless and providing $24 billion in aid to the states — could pass, possibly as early as later this week, after relatively minor revisions.
Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus says the Senate will now present a "less costly" plan" that will cost the states, the poor and the unemployed a lot more.
Bush left us with a $1.4 trillion deficit, and the unemployed and poor are paying for that. Part of the problem is that conservatives have been successful at misleading the public into thinking this huge deficit was the result of Obama's stimulus when it wasn't. (The public also conflates the stimulus with the Bush banker bailouts.)
With the election looming this misperception puts the heat on Democrats who didn't get the Cheney message that "Reagan proved deficits don't matter." They are putting themselves in the role of taking the candy away -- and hurting the unemployed and poor, while risking tipping the economy back into recession. They think this will help them in the election.
Republicans are barely able to keep their snickering to themselves.Outside of the DC bubble it is clear that the Republican strategy is to cause economic pain, and then run against Democrats for causing economic pain. And this is exactly what they are doing. (Similar to the strategy of blocking everything the Congress does, and then running a campaign of "Democrats aren't getting anything done so vote for us.")
Yes, all the Republicans had to do was leave a hat on the fence to scare the most skittish Democratic cattle! Ezra Klein explains:
Other politicians, as Arthur Delaney explains, have decided that unemployment insurance is just "too much of an allure" for people. It keeps them from going back to work. In theory, you could imagine unemployment benefits so lavish such that that would happen. But in America, benefits are 36 percent of the worker's average previous wage. Imagine living on one-third of your income. That sound "alluring" to you?
Unemployment is at 9.7 percent right now. It's extraordinarily high. And it's extraordinarily high because not enough jobs are being created to absorb all the workers who got laid off during the recession. Killing their unemployment benefits wouldn't magically make more jobs appear. It would just make those people poorer, and because they'd be poorer, they'd have less to spend, and because unemployment is geographically concentrated, that would mean the economy in areas with lots of unemployed workers would tank further and thus it would take longer for it to create jobs.