Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Tom on Morning Joe: Senate "Elites" Don't Get the Recession

Tom Perriello went on Morning Joe last week to discuss the Health Insurance Industry Fair Competition Act, which passed the House last Wednesday.

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Perriello's blunt statement about the Senate's elitism is especially prescient after the last few days, when two Republican senators made known their disdain for the unemployed. First, Sen. Jim Bunning (R-KY) repeatedly blocked efforts to extend unemployment benefits, even going so far as to tell one Democrat "tough shit" and complain about having missed the Kentucky-South Carolina basketball game while making his objections. So not only is he completely contemptuous of the needs of his constituents, he's arrogantly so. Stay classy, Jim--and great family values.

Then, we got the wizened words of Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ), who basically accused unemployment beneficiaries of being lazy and not looking for work:

Unemployment insurance "doesn't create new jobs. In fact, if anything, continuing to pay people unemployment compensation is a disincentive for them to seek new work," Kyl said during debate over whether unemployment insurance and other benefits that expired amid GOP objections Sunday should be extended.

"I'm sure most of them would like work and probably have tried to seek it, but you can't argue that it's a job enhancer. If anything, as I said, it's a disincentive. And the same thing with the COBRA extension and the other extensions here," said Kyl.

Wow, what an unbelievably condescending thing to say. As someone who spent six months struggling to find work, I'll be glad to tell Sen. Kyl all about incentives and disincentives. Simply being unemployed is plenty of incentive to find work. When you have to borrow money from family to pay your health insurance, constantly have to defer student loans and can never afford anything, you don't have much incentive to stay unemployed. Trouble is, it's damn near impossible to find a decent job with stable income. Maybe if these pompous, pathetic excuses for lawmakers could pull their myopic heads out of the sand and live in the real world for five minutes, they'd understand that. I guess that's too much to expect from the House of Lords.

What's especially puzzling is that the CBO has absolutely pulverized Kyl's argument, as Sen. Max Baucus, hardly a progressive darling, pointed out:

He added that Kyl's economic argument was flawed, as well. Unemployment benefits do create jobs because the recipients cycle the money through the economy. He cited a Congressional Budget Office analysis that said the Gross Domestic Product grew $1.90 for every dollar the federal government paid out.

The more I hear from the Senate, the less faith I have in its relevance as an institution. The words and actions of Sens. Kyl and Bunning have only multiplied this effect. I find myself more and more grateful every day that at least our congressman gets it--even if he seems to be the only one in Washington who does sometimes.

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