Budget Deal: The long-term unemployed are abandoned by Congress


Posted by AzBlueMeanie:

EddieMunsterThe GOP's alleged boy genius, Ayn Rand fanboy Paul Ryan (R-WI), or as Charles Pierce at Esquire calls him, "the zombie-eyed granny-starver from Wisconsin," is being hailed by his Beltway media villager fan base for his "pragmatic" mini-budget deal with Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), in which the GOP's Flimflam Man pretty much got his way because, after all, Tea-Publicans do control the Congress. As the Washington Post editorialized, A flawed deal, but a done deal:

THERE’S A lot not to like in the budget deal that Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) have struck on behalf of their respective parties and legislative houses. It does basically nothing to resolve the country’s long-term fiscal predicament. It does very little to correct the growing imbalance between discretionary spending and entitlements as a share of the federal budget. And even these modest policy achievements required the use of a budgetary gimmick or two. Yet the deal has one overriding virtue: It exists . . . In short, the agreement’s importance is not fiscal but political: It amounts to a truce in the destructive budgetary wars that have plagued Washington since the advent of a Republican-majority House in 2011.

Well that's setting the bar low. We are supposed to give the "Worst. Congress. Ever." props for doing the one job that they are required to do by the Constitution, pass a budget and appropriate the funds? (This deal is just the budget, Congress is leaving for the rest of the year at the end of this week and will not be back to tackle apropriations until after the new year). Only Beltway media villagers in their insular bubble could could find something to cheer in this deal.

Charles Pierce uses an appropriate level of opprobrium for this deal in No Big Deal:

This is how the scale generally gets loaded in Washington — Republicans get enough of what they want so as to rest up for the next big grab while the Democrats throw themselves a parade to honor how mature and grown-up they are. For them, the deal is an end in itself. For the Republicans, it is a means to an end. The fight gets fixed that way.  For all the huzzahs, you can hardly hear the cries of the people who are being sold down the river.

And who got sold down the river by Congress in this deal? The Small Bargain And The Antifreeze Factor:

1.3 million Americans will lose their unemployment benefits, and the fact that this is happening at Christmas does indeed add a little piquant je ne sais Scrooge to this whole farce. They weren't even relevant as far as the deal was concerned. And now everyone will congratulate themselves and run for the airport.

As Ezra Klein writes, Washington is reducing the deficit but abandoning the unemployed:

There's one big thing left out of the Murray-Ryan budget deal: unemployment insurance.

On December 28, federal jobless benefits expire for 1.3 million workers. These aren't normal unemployment benefits. These are the extended, emergency benefits meant to help the long-term unemployed.

A little-known fact about the economy is that short-term unemployment — the percentage of the labor force unemployed for five weeks or less — is back down to where it was before the recession. It's long-term unemployment — which lasts more than 27 weeks — where the crisis lingers.

No one has a very good answer for these workers. They're often stuck in areas of the country where jobs are scarce. They face a vicious cycle of employment discrimination in which employers don't want to hire them because they've been unemployed for so long, which in turn extends their unemployment and makes it even harder for them to find a job. And now we're just cutting them loose.

"If there was ever time to err on the side of overextending jobless benefits, it would be now," wrote Jim Pethokoukis at the conservative American Enterprise Institute.

But the political system isn't erring on the side of extending jobless benefits. It's erring on the side of further deficit reduction.

* * *

Democrats wanted to add unemployment insurance to the deal but found Republicans implacably opposed. Which is to say that Republicans were able to add extra deficit reduction to the deal but Democrats weren't able to add help for the long-term unemployed to the deal. It's a reminder of where the political system's priorities are — and a reminder that they're grossly out of line.

Democrats promise they will try to get UI benefits funded in the appropriations process when they return next year, but it will require Tea-Publican votes to pass the House. Good luck with that.

Charles Dickens captured the philosophy of the modern-era GOP in A Christmas Carol:

Gentleman: "At this festive season of the year, Mr Scrooge, … it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for the Poor and destitute, who suffer greatly at the present time. Many thousands are in want of common necessaries; hundreds of thousands are in want of common comforts, sir."
Scrooge: "Are there no prisons?"
Gentleman: "Plenty of prisons…"
Scrooge: "And the Union workhouses." demanded Scrooge. "Are they still in operation?"
Gentleman: "Both very busy, sir…"
Scrooge: "Those who are badly off must go there."
Gentleman: "Many can't go there; and many would rather die."
Scrooge: "If they would rather die," said Scrooge, "they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population."


  1. It’s long been said you can judge a civilization by the way we treat our very old and our very young . . and perhaps our very poor. Next week I’m participating in a “Toy Drive” that ostensibly was to take fun play items to 2 ‘working poor’ families. But the families just contacted us and said they decided as a family that they would rather have blankets, clothing. . . . .and food.

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