Happy Holidays, Suckers!

As The Associated Press reports:

Republicans in the House have blocked a bill that would have extended jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed beyond the holiday season.

The most recent extension of jobless benefits expires Dec. 1. Two million people will lose benefits averaging $310 a week nationwide by the end of the year.

The measure would have extended jobless benefits through the end of February at a cost of adding $12.5 billion to the nation’s debt. Republicans opposing the measure said that the measure should be paid for by cutting unspent money from last year’s economic stimulus bill. [Pols emphasis]

This is one of those prime examples of where Republican talking points from the election are going to get them into trouble with voters in 2012. Voters may want Congress to address the budget deficit and control spending, but we doubt there are a lot of folks out there who are going to be pleased to hear that the GOP spiked unemployment benefits over arguments about the stimulus bill. This isn’t just about the unemployed, remember — people who aren’t getting unemployment checks aren’t spending money locally, which has a definite adverse affect on small businesses. This is a tough spot for Republicans to find themselves — they need to try to prove they are sticking to their principles, but at the cost of really hurting a lot of unemployed people?

“We don’t like the stimulus, so we’re not extending unemployment benefits” is not exactly the kind of populist message that voters are going to be pleased to read about tomorrow. Polls consistently showed that voters were unhappy with both Democrats and Republicans — they were just a little less happy with the incumbents. The lessons we’ve learned from Colorado’s elections, particularly the 2004 turnover in the state legislature, is that voters want their elected officials to do something to make their lives better. Punishing people over a separate principle isn’t an example of that.

Forget, for a moment, the very real economic problems created by not extending unemployment benefits and consider this issue purely from a strategic political perspective. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the national unemployment rate is 9.6% — or roughly 14.8 million people without a job. Here’s what that could mean electorally:

Approximate Number of Total Votes Cast in the 2010 General Election: 87.2 million

Number of People Unemployed in the U.S.: 14.8 million

Now, obviously not all of America’s unemployed are registered voters or even likely voters. But 14.8 million is 17% of the total number of voters in 2010.

For those 14.8 million unemployed, let’s assume that each person has at least 4 people close to them who know that they are unemployed (spouse, parents, aunts, uncles, friends, former co-workers, etc.). That’s 59.2 million people who have a direct personal interest in the news that Republicans are refusing to extend unemployment benefits. That number represents 69 percent of the total number of people who voted in 2010.

Again, not all of those people — or perhaps even a majority — will vote in 2012. But 59 million people is a lot of people. All of them with a personal stake in extending unemployment benefits, and many of whom will hear that Republicans blocked extended unemployment benefits (again, during the Holidays) over an ideological discussion about overall spending levels.

Maybe we’re wrong here, but we really don’t see how this is going to be anything but harmful to Republicans in 2012. If nothing else, this certainly isn’t the message they should be sending to voters just two weeks after taking control of the House.  

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  1. I do have to say, however, that at a certain point it seems a little bizarre to just keep extending unemployment benefits indefinitely. I don’t for a minute buy into Republican rhetoric that people are choosing not to work so they can collect unemployment. However, I do think that beyond a certain point there is something to be said for modifying the unemployment program.

    Unemployment is not going to remain self-supporting through unemployment insurance and be there for the next recession if we extend and extend and extend benefits without bringing any money back into the system.

    Does anyone know why there hasn’t been a reasonable plan floated to at least utilize those past their original benefits expiration date for some sort of needed labor, a la the New Deal?

    • parsingreality says:

      That would be socialist!

    • DavidThi808DavidThi808 says:

      It’s been suggested by many, but it doesn’t directly help the rich so it’s then shot down.

  2. VoyageurVoyageur says:

    Maybe it’s time to bring back the Civilian Conservation Corps.  God knows, the land and environment is in worse shape today than it was in FDR’s.  Call it make-work if you like, but those jobs gave proud Americans dignity and left a lasting legacy in our land.

    • BlueCat says:

      as does unemployment for that matter. Modest pay checks and unemployment checks get put straight back into the economy with a stimulating effect because it’s needed just to get by and pay bills. All the evidence says the lion’s share of tax breaks for the rich doesn’t do anything to stimulate the economy or create jobs.  

    • Even for-profit business comes up with a need, convinces people they have that need, and makes work based on it.

      I don’t think it would be too hard a sell to bring back the CCC or create a similar program.  I think most voters would rather see a public benefit from the payouts already going to unemployed Americans. Give them time and opportunities to seek permanent employment, but keep them working, too. Light rail might get completed faster with a few hundred extra pairs of hands. There are also plenty of highly skilled and educated workers on unemployment who could help with understaffed schools or various other public needs that aren’t currently being funded sufficiently due to the recession.

      Granted, teachers’ unions might not be crazy about inviting the unemployed with suitable skill sets to teach, but they might be willing to let them in as teacher assistants, playground monitors, college counselors and the like.

      • BlueCat says:

        No need to apologize that it would be “make work”.  Considering the appalling condition of our infrastructure and the lasting benefits to the economy that grew out of CCC projects and Eisenhower’s transformation of our highway system, such work is badly needed for the long lasting economic value of what it would create, not just to create jobs today. It’s hardly like paying people to move a pile of something from point A to point B and back again.  That’s make work.

        • There’s only one traditional high school left in Jeffco with an autoshop program. Many have cut the arts altogether. I spoke to a school counselor last year who quit her job, having finally had it with the school system after they announced she’d be expected to serve more than 20 schools in the coming school year–up from serving one school when she started her career, and actually having time to help students, not glance at them  for signs of drunkenness or drug abuse and then move on.

          Teachers are taking playground duty at most elementaries now, which means even more work for them off-hours since they lose out on grading and curriculum planning time. Forget any hope of a break.

          And call me old-fashioned (at my tender age) but I think it’s extremely unfortunate to see that most high schools no longer make an American Government education mandatory–they don’t have the money to hire a teacher for those classes, and they don’t have the time to both teach students about their civil rights and teach them to pass a CSAP. No surprise many are graduating and simply accepting indignities to themselves and the Constitution as de rigeur.

    • OneEyedOwl says:

      I’ve never been sure what exactly AmeriCorps was intended to do, but if the feds are already trying to do something like the CCC, it isn’t working very well.

      • RedGreenRedGreen says:

        but the CCC was a jobs program, AmeriCorps is a service program. Probably some overlap, but very different intentions.

      • parsingreality says:

        The CCC gave a fair wage to the men – and they were all men, AFAIK – which often was sent home to family.  And needless to say, was mostly hard manual labor.

        Americorps has most young people who can live for several years on almost no wages using their skills to help communities.  Free labor, in a sense, for schools, community centers, libraries, etc.  After their two years (I think,) they get educational credits, which is why it appeals to young people.

        Not sure how many of today’s unemployed will do hard manual labor, and we need to put money in people’s hands, now, not later.

        Every time I go to the library there are carts and carts of books waiting to be shelved. It’s the low totem pole job for volunteers.  This is the type of thing that a new Job Corps could do, no particular skills or heavy lifting required.

      • PERA hopeful says:

        Volunteers in Service to America, a 60s program.  From the website:

        AmeriCorps VISTA members serve full-time for a year in anti-poverty organizations and agencies throughout the nation, working on issues such as fighting illiteracy, improving health services, creating businesses, increasing housing opportunities, improving college access, and bridging the digital divide.

        VISTAs perform indirect service, which means they help build the capacity of organizations to deliver valuable direct services to people living in poverty. VISTAs typically create new programs, write grants, and recruit volunteers. For example, a VISTA could establish a tutoring program, recruit and train volunteers, and raise money for the program-but would not tutor the children.

        It’s not really a jobs program.  If you’re interested, here’s the site: http://www.americorps.gov/abou

      • OneEyedOwl says:

        I stand enlightened.

  3. BlueCat says:

    people collecting unemployment are just too lazy to go back to work. Why should they when they have everything so easy?  When I pointed out to her that many were people who couldn’t  afford their mortgages and other bills or to keep their kids in college on unemployment and would love to land a job, she assured me that they didn’t have mortgages because they were all living in section 8 housing on welfare and medicaid.  When I pointed out that she was getting various programs for the poor mixed up with unemployment she just slammed the door.

    So my guess is that the GOP will continue to do their usual superior sales job on this, the public will fall for it, again as usual, and the Dems will continue to blow it as they have every other opportunity to take the high ground that has come their way and as they promise to do with every new one.

    Dems only seem to get lucky anymore when the number of Rs involved in very sleazy sex scandals reaches a tipping point and coincides with a relatively sex scandal light year for Dems.. Then it’s right back to apologetic defence for Dems.

    • Roger D says:

      With Reagan’s Welfare queens driving cadilacs.

    • reubenesp says:

      it’s not our fault, it’s theirs.  There have always been folks who prefer to see the world in stark terms of I’ve got mine, and to hell with everybody else.  It’s called being selfish.

      • BlueCat says:

        In fact, solid Republicans are a minority. Many more in the middle aren’t even in the middle so much as in no particular political place at all. They are simply low info types, not interested in politics but easily influenced by the superior message machinery, conviction and confidence of the right.  The fact that Dems have been conceding hegemony to the GOP messaging juggernaut and going into a defensive crouch for decades instead of building one of their own and deploying it with equal aggressive confidence and conviction is the Dems fault.

        Please like us because we really are almost as fill-in-the-blank as those big tough patriotic conservervatives and we really aren’t class warfare waging commies has never and will never be a message that successfully competes with the cocky  rightie spin machine.  

  4. IndyNinjaIndyNinja says:

    I wonder if it’s really that the Republicans are actually ok with extending the benefits, they just don’t want the Democrats to be the ones that did it.

    Then in January, they get to be the party that wants to fund unemployment by cutting stimulus spending and the Democrats will be the nasty bad guys that won’t give up their pork for poor people.

    I have nothing to back that up, and I can admit that.

    But wouldn’t it be interesting?

    • redstateblues says:

      That the Dems will do nothing to remind people and consider it a moral victory since people ended up getting the benefits anyway.

    • sxp151 says:

      They don’t give a shit about jobs, which is why you almost never heard Republicans take up the argument that they’d fix unemployment during the election. “Cut corporate taxes and cross our fingers” was the extent of their jobs plan when anyone bothered to ask.

      They want unemployment benefits eliminated so that taxes can be lower (mainly for rich people). This is their entire agenda, and they’re not shy about it.

  5. redstateblues says:

    The bill failed on a 258-154 vote? This is idiotic. I get that they wanted to get it done quickly, but it’s just opening the door for obstruction. Harry Reid must have suggested it.

    $12.5 billion is a small drop in the bucket when it comes to the debt. That’s, what, a week or so in Iraq and Afghanistan? I’d say that’s a small price to pay to try to keep millions of unemployed Americans from turning into millions of homeless Americans.

    • sxp151 says:

      The difficulty here is the motion to recommit (explained really well here back when Republicans first started doing it). It used to be a rare thing (like the filibuster in the Senate) but now it’s a typical thing on any piece of legislation.

      Democrats propose a popular bill, e.g., to extend unemployment benefits. Republicans make a motion to recommit, amending the bill at the last minute to say no unemployment benefits will accrue to Hitler’s baby-raping flesh-eating reanimated corpse. If the Republican motion is successful, the bill is sent back to committee where it effectively dies. Democrats want the popular bill to pass (which means voting against the motion to recommit) but don’t want to see ads later on claiming how they voted for unemployment benefits for Hitler’s baby-raping flesh-eating reanimated corpse.

      The suspension of the rules is meant for a bill that’s supposed to be popular enough to get a 2/3 majority and thus preventing the motion to recommit hijinks.

      It’s the sort of thing you have to do when you’re playing by Marquess of Queensberry rules against someone who’s playing murderball.

      • redstateblues says:

        But why did Democrats think that they would be able to get 274 votes? The Republicans just won, the last thing they want to do is piss off Boehner by handing the Dems a victory. This seems important enough to want to get passed without worrying about poison pill amendments designed to cause political headaches for Dems later on. Especially since such a bill will have exactly 0% chance of passing in 50 days or so.

        But no, I’m sure House leadership probably thought it would be a great way to start the bipartisan train rolling, and they’d be able to get more than 21 Republicans to vote yes. Really piss poor final failure by the 111th.

        • cunninjo says:

          I have to think they knew it would fail. Otherwise, couldn’t they have protected against this when establishing the rules for debate in the Rules Committee? But the election is over and most voters don’t realize this is a lame duck session. They assume the Republicans already have control. So now the Democrats can blame the Republicans for not extending unemployment benefits.

          Trust me, in two years voters won’t remember any of the minor details. Kind of like how so many think that TARP was Obama’s idea.

  6. caroman says:

    Dear Rich Guy,

    The Republicans learned the lesson of the 2010 election — they are not going to renew unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed.  I say, “Hear, Hear!”

    Working Hard for the Money in Castle Pines

    Dear Working,

    You’ve got a job, right?  I’ve got a job.  In fact, about 90% of Americans have jobs.  So, what’s the problem?  Better to spend that money on reducing our Rich Guy tax rates.  Then, maybe we’ll hire the other 10%.  Maybe not.  Now, let me go back to my vacation planning — great discounts abound!

    I love this recession!!

    Rich Guy

    • sxp151 says:

      They have checks that are mailed to them for not doing anything, through inheritances or cushy Vice President of Thisandthat jobs that involve golfing and drinking. It’s like getting welfare checks, except you can buy a yacht with them.

      • caroman says:

        Or, someone in my family, I forget.

        Disclaimer: Rich Guy does not mean to imply that he is actually rich, only that he has unique insights into the thinking of society’s most important and desirable inhabitants.

  7. JLD says:

    Remember his position on Obama’s new stimulus bill?

    http://coloradoindependent.com

    All they said was the exact same thing that Bennet did regarding new spending.  How is that wrong?

    • redstateblues says:

      Unless you’re a heartless bastard.

      • droll says:

        Duh.  People should read before posting.  Otherwise it looks like they’re saying that unemployment is a failure and everyone without a job should either freeze to death and/or let their house go back to the bank.  It will pull us out of the recession faster.  Or something that doesn’t quite pass the math test.

        You’re the heartless bastard, RSB.  You are.

    • Colorado PolsColorado Pols says:

      Republicans apparently believe the rationale and explanation for denying benefits is the real issue — not that millions of people will no longer get small checks just helping them to get by.

      THAT’S the point — you don’t do yourself any favors by insisting on an ideological discussion when people are going to be unable to pay rent. And during the Holidays, no less. Do you think someone who is no longer going to receive unemployment benefits is thinking, “Hey, that’s okay. It’s more important that we have a serious discussion about the debt than it is for me to pay the electricity bill.”

      There is a time and a place for every argument. This was not the time to have that debate and hold hostage unemployment benefits in the process.  

      • Colorado PolsColorado Pols says:

        See update at the end of the post.

        • caroman says:

          Republican disapproval of unemployment benefits (extension or otherwise) was well known during the 2010 election.  Given your analysis, the Dems should have won 69% of the vote.  Except, as you say, for those that don’t vote, which is my point:  poor people and unemployed people don’t vote.  Our massive GOTV was to get those people to vote and it wasn’t particularly successful.  

          Republicans have done their own math and are siding with the 90% of Americans who have jobs, and are probably more likely to vote.  Sad, but true.

        • JLD says:

          You’ve again asserted that Republicans have some sort of ability to block legislation in the House.

          Stop lying, they have no such ability until 2011.  The ‘lame duck’ is in session which means it is the Pelosi led Democrats that once again failed to pass a bill that you support.

          Now think about this logically, the failure of the measure had bipartisan opposition.  In fact, it had overwhelming bipartisan opposition.  

          It’s dishonest to call this Republican blocking as anything even approaching Democratic unity would have easily passed this bill.  You should be more truthful when you put your byline on something.

        • 20th Maine says:

          You all should get a room- this is bordering on pornographic.

          Your math is irrelevant. There were a lot more people who voted specifically to cut spending than 14M. Let me connect the dots for you – they all voted. 100% of them!

          And – the GOP has made a reasonable proposal:  use the obscene pile or cash already piled high for benefits rather than increase the deficit for no other good reason. Guess what?  The deficit and national debt aren’t very popular.  

      • droll says:

        Nice touch.  I mean, it’s not like this single day (or eight, if you celebrate the sock and school supply holiday) sets hiring trends that are unlikely to change until summer based largely on fear/optimism rather than actual sales (which have an uncanny way of following suit).

        America – Fuck yeah!

      • sxp151 says:

        Plenty of Republicans live on government support, but the ones who actually understand that their government benefits come from the government would never vote for the party that always votes to eliminate them.

        Anyone who understands enough about money to know that tax cuts increase the debt is already voting for Democrats.

        • BlueCat says:

          commies waging class warfare to make any sustained effort to get that message out.  The Rs have no trouble aggressively marketing and gaining acceptance for their total bull so gaining acceptance for the truth, with the facts available to lend support, really ought to be, if anything, a little easier.

          Soros is right that if the leadership we have now is just going to throw up its hands and declare anything but more ankle grabbing hopeless, we do have to take another look at our options.  That doesn’t mean dumping Obama. He’s what we’ve got and he has the potential to expand his accomplishments.  

          I think what Soros is talking about is concentrating on investing in the tools and infrastructure to  pressure Obama led Dems to learn to do what the GOP/right has learned to do so well.  Dems don’t have to just continue to accept that the GOP/right is going to have the upper hand whether they are in the minority or the majority.   If Soros wants to marshal Dem billionaires to use their money to pressure Dem leadership to be responsive to the people who elected them, grow a pair, take control of the message and turn the tables, that’s fine with me.

      • reubenesp says:

        “Bennet: unfunded tax cuts for the rich OK, but U.I. extensions must be paid for”

        Kelly Wiedemer, Denver Unemployment Examiner, November 14th, 2010

        http://www.examiner.com/unempl

  8. Very well stated – and obvious, I would think.

    The fiscally responsible republicans don’t have problem adding $700 billion of unfunded tax cuts for th wealthy (or $70 billion just for one year of extended tax rates) – but for the middle class professionals – who have never asked for a dime, worked hard and paid taxes all of their lives – minimal, temporary assistance must be paid for?!

    The Republicans are not only arrogant hypocrites, they are ignorant and keep proving that fact daily – if people would just pay attention, they’d get the message.

    Example:  Betsy Markey voted against UI extensions FOUR times; now that she and her staff are headed to the unemployment lines, she voted in favor of extending UI benefits yesterday.  Hypocrit.  She was Republican in disguise – and now she wants to vote with the Dems to help the unemployed?

    Enough said.

    Denver Unemployment Examiner

    http://www.examiner.com/unempl

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