What one hand giveth, the other seeks to take away. Such is the case with our Republican Congress, who wants to publicly appear sympathetic with the long-term unemployed while backing away from the deal they made with Democrats last year to extend tax cuts in exchange for extended unemployment benefits.
>House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp and Senate Finance Committee Ranking Republican Orrin Hatch have introduced a bill that, they say, would improve the unemployment insurance (UI) system by “forward funding” federal UI payments to states. That sounds good and, in fact, “forward funding” is a worthy goal, as explained below. But, their bill actually would let states take federal funds that are supposed to help the long-term unemployed and use them for other purposes. That not only would hurt some of the most vulnerable Americans but also would slow the economic recovery.
Forward funding for UI is the equivalent of block grants for Medicare. It would give governors like Michigan governor Rick Snyder a way to go forward with the deep cuts to unemployment benefits in Michigan while continuing to fund them.
Surely the Republicans wouldn't just blatantly break this deal would they? And there's no way that the Democrats would let them, right? Yeah ...
I honestly don't know. But with the unemployment numbers stuck at around 9%, the housing market shakier than ever and growth looking anemic at best, it's a very bad idea, not to mention cruel and dishonest. But get ready, they are going to argue that the private sector is going gangbusters now and there's nothing stopping these lazy sods from getting a job. It's just how they roll.
They will, by the way, do the same thing with any other "concessions" in the next Grand Bargain the first chance they get. Their post-modern politics doesn't acknowledge the concepts of hypocrisy or intellectual consistency. Keeping their end of a bargain would hardly break any of their rules.
Of course, they'll argue that there's no effort here to back away from the deal they made when they're simply "improving the system" to be more efficient. In a time where Republican governors are balancing their budgets by cutting the number of weeks of unemployment benefits paid, an unallocated windfall from the federal government would be awesome, wouldn't it?
I hope the Senate will turn this proposal back. But it's equally clear that Republicans don't believe in keeping their word or striking honorable deals, and if Democrats don't learn this now, they're going to keep being played for fools.