Danger Lurks as the GOP Hoovervilles the Unemployed

Jul 04 2010 Published by under Featured News, Issues, Republican Party

As Republicans continue to filibuster extending unemployment benefits, the economic fate of our country hangs in the balance. Their obstruction to extending jobless benefits is more a result of their ideological contempt for the social safety net that can historically be traced back to the New Deal than their claimed discomfort with a growing deficit.

Republicans are trying to sell the meme that we should be more worried about our national debt during a recession than we should about economic recovery. They are further arguing that unemployment benefits don’t stimulate the economy. Economists from both side of the aisle disagree with the Republicans. Guess where Republicans got this talking point? None other than their media arm, Fox News.

Sounds like the Republicans are in bed with Herbie Hoover, who once said, “Economic depression cannot be cured by legislative action or executive pronouncement. Economic wounds must be healed by the action of the cells of the economic body – the producers and consumers themselves.”

Yes, that worked out well.

Back in reality land, according to the bi-partisan CBO reports, increasing aid to the unemployed is the single largest immediate step we can take to off-set a further recession. In fact, leading economists, including conservative Mark Zandi, chief economist with Moody’s Economy.com and a former adviser to Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), agree that failure to immediately extend unemployment benefits is an escalating risk to our economy.

The current recession is one of the longest downturns since the Great Depression of the 1930’s.The number of jobs in the United States declined almost every month since December 2007 until 2009. This recession is a direct result of the financial crisis started by the housing downturn in 2006, and some speculate compounded by escalating oil prices. Yes, sing it with me, people: Despite Phil Graham’s claim that there was no recession and we were a nation of whiners, in 2008 the National Bureau of Economic Research declared the recession officially started in 2007.

Zandi argues:

“Congress needs to hurry up and reauthorize expired jobless aid or risk derailing the nascent economic recovery.Historically, federally funded unemployment benefits are always used in times of recession and have never been paid for. (Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Wash., said paying for extended benefits would set a precedent that would essentially undermine the New Deal.) And they’ve never been allowed to expire with a national unemployment rate above 7.2 percent.”

The Washington Post further explained:

“Zandi estimated that each dollar spent on extending unemployment benefits generated $1.61 in economic growth. Extending benefits had the third-greatest bang-for-the-buck of any component in the stimulus package, after increasing food stamps and subsidizing work-sharing, both temporary measures. To quote Zandi, “No form of the fiscal stimulus has proved more effective during the past two years than emergency UI benefits.” The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities looked at the impact on poverty of the extension and found that it saved a total of 800,000 people from falling below the poverty line. So far, then, unemployment benefits have been very effective at stimulating the economy and reducing economic misery among affected families.”

Not only is the Republican filibustering on unemployment extension benefits an ideological assault on the social safety net, but also it has nothing to do with the current recession and is not based on economics. In spite of reasoned thought from both sides of the aisle, the Republicans are willing to put our economy at risk in order to gain momentum in their jihad like war on the poor, and everyone else who is not rich.

The GOP has returned to their intellectual economic forefather, Herbert Hoover. And I think we all know where that leads. Thanks, but no thanks, to that Bridge to Nowhere.

“Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things…..Their number is
negligible and they are stupid.”
- Dwight D. Eisenhower, Letter to Edgar Eisenhower, Nov 1954

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