Bipartisan Coalition On Screwing The Unemployed
The public has internalized the concept of bipartisanship as practiced by George Bush - he meant it as "Everyone agrees with me," and the public wants to see bipartisanship defined as everyone agree with Obama. This won't make it into many high Broderist discussions, but people seemingly want the agenda that they actually voted for. What a concept.
However, there are some issues where Democrats and Republicans are able to get together and agree. Especially when the "Democrat" in the scenario is a corporate whore who wants to punish the unemployed.
Tennessee and Georgia may turn down some of the economic stimulus money if the restrictions outlined in the package cause budgetary hardship in the future, the governors said Monday.
After meeting with President Barack Obama, Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen said some provisions in the package for unemployment benefits would force states to expand their programs permanently, even though the stimulus funding only lasts for two years.
“We are evaluating this piece of money, whether it makes sense for us to take it,” he said. “We may well be one of the states that say we can’t take on that portion of it.”
In short, these Governors don't want to take money now to qualify more people for unemployment, fearing that increased eligibility would remain in 2-4 years when the federal dollars run out, costing employers in their state money. The concerns always seem calibrated to industry and the Chamber of Commerce, oddly enough. Never mind that extending unemployment benefits is one of the most effective stimulus programs there can be and the increase in consumer spending as a result will outweigh any projected and purely conjectural costs years down the road (don't take my word for it, take the word of noted liberal hippie Ben Bernanke).
Chuck Schumer is out with a letter arguing that the stimulus isn't an a la carte menu and that Southern Governor grandstanding aside, picking and choosing is not an option:
As you know, Section 1607(a) of the economic recovery legislation provides that the Governor of each state must certify a request for stimulus funds before any money can flow. No language in this provision, however, permits the governor to selectively adopt some components of the bill while rejecting others. To allow such picking and choosing would, in effect, empower the governors with a line-item veto authority that President Obama himself did not possess at the time he signed the legislation. It would also undermine the overall success of the bill, as the components most singled out for criticism by these governors are among the most productive measures in terms of stimulating the economy.
For instance, at least two governors have proposed rejecting a program to expand unemployment insurance for laid-off workers. Economists consistently rank unemployment insurance among the most efficient and cost-effective fiscal stimulus measures; by one frequently cited estimate, it provides an economic return of as high as $1.73 for every dollar invested. Thus, by denying this provision for their residents, these governors are not just depriving some of the neediest Americans of relief in a dire economy; they are undermining the overall stimulative impact of the package.
Big thanks to Phil Bredesen for giving this rank political grandstanding a patina of bipartisanship. Really helps the country.