Senator Jim Bunning (R-KY) is taking some major criticism for blocking the U.S. Senate's attempt to extend unemployment benefits for another 30 days. Reports The Huffington Post
"On Monday, the Kentucky Republican once again prevented a vote on a bill that would extend eligibility for enhanced unemployment benefits and subsidized health insurance for laid-off workers by 30 days."
The move by Senator Bunning has created a sharp backlash from Democrats and Republicans, scathing critiques from the establishment and Internet media, and prompted some questions from journalists, one of whom the Kentucky Senator reportedly gave "the finger" to.
UPDATE (Mar. 2): Bunning, Reid to make deal. Developing...
There are a number of important points to make here:
1) Bunning is right. Jim Bunning's reason for blocking the extension of unemployment benefits is absolutely well-founded. He is asking the question we should ask of every appropriation: where is the money coming from to pay for it?
He doesn't oppose the unemployment extension, he is simply insisting that we pay for it with unspent money from 2008's appalling financial bailout package- money that would go to financial corporations if we don't give it to struggling Americans like Bunning suggests. Really terrible of him, huh?
2) Bunning is wrong. Megan McArdle is correct to ask, "If Bunning wants to hold up something, how about finding some useless defense appropriations to complain about?" Bunning isn't so fiscally responsible when it come to the military-industrial complex, is he?
But I also have to say that I'm tired of hearing welfare statists and warfare statists pretend to be fiscally responsible by complaining about the other's spending. I for one would like to see some fiscal sanity across the board.
Not that I'm calling McArdle a welfare statist by the way, but she is confused if she thinks that unemployment benefits are a kind of economic stimulus, as she asserts in the article linked to above. (You'll see why I say that in item six below...)
3) Bunning isn't the only one holding up the unemployment extension. To read the criticisms, you'd think that Jim Bunning and his damned stubbornness alone are keeping the American people from getting a much-needed unemployment extension this month. Just scroll back up and click on some of those Memeorandum links- you'll see.
One even says, "Sen. Bunning Single-handedly Causes 2,000 Federal Worker Furloughs." Um... what about the rest of the Senate? None of them are being stubborn at all by refusing to consider Bunning's request to fund the unemployment benefits with leftover money from the 2008 financial bailout bill? Why isn't anyone angry at them? They're holding things up too.
Oh yeah- and Jim Bunning isn't even really filibustering.
4) Why do people need the unemployment extension in the first place? While it feels good to direct a little partisan outrage in Jim Bunning's direction for his "refusal" to help out struggling, working class Americans, it would be more helpful to think about why they're struggling in the first place and to be angry at the people who caused that. Seriously.
I'm not a heartless libertarian who doesn't care about the struggle of working class Americans. I do care about it deeply, and I share it. I just graduated from college this December in the middle of one of the worst job markets our country has seen. I was also laid off from my job this last summer as a server at a steakhouse (go figure that people don't seem to be going out for steak as often these days). So believe me, I know what it means to get hit by the recession and I care.
I care so much in fact, that I'd like to figure out what caused all of this in the first place, and I'd prefer to be more angry at the people who put Americans out of their jobs than at Jim Bunning for insisting on paying for their unemployment extension with money that will otherwise go to financial corporations (you know instead of just running up the already suicidal deficit and/or hogging up even more of the credit market by issuing bonds, both of which would ironically hurt job growth).
5) No, seriously. Why? The reason people need an unemployment extension is because they're unemployed. The reason people are unemployed is because there aren't enough jobs. The reason why they're aren't enough jobs is because rent-seeking behavior by unions and complicit legislators at multiple levels of government have driven jobs overseas and reduced the total quantity of labor demanded by employers.
Furthermore, the economic "boom" fueled by the Fed's artificial expansion of the monetary and credit supply stimulated an artificially increased demand for things like housing construction, which in turn artificially pushed their prices upward. This resulted in a misallocation of capital to its least productive uses as investors sought to make returns on the "booming" real estate market. When the credit markets naturally and inevitably corrected themselves, housing prices plummeted and all that capital was destroyed with little productive value to show for it and no sustainable jobs created in the process.
Today Democrats are angry at Jim Bunning for holding up the Senate in a debate over how to fund an emergency 30-day unemployment extension. Today I'm angry at Democrats for supporting the policies that lost people jobs in the first place. (And don't worry- I'm angry at Republicans too.)
6) Unemployment benefits are bad for the economy and hurt the people they purport to help. Period. This is an empirically verifiable fact. There's no arguing with it. The chair of Belmont University's prestigious Department of Entrepreneurship, Dr. Jeff Cornwall has all the details here:
"Koellinger and Minniti's analysis showed that increasing unemployment benefits by 0.1 percent of GDP reduces the share of entrepreneurs in the population by roughly 3%. The USA currently spends about 0.3% of GDP on unemployment benefits and 7.7% of the adult population are currently in the process of starting a new business. If the government were to decide raising unemployment benefits to 0.4% of GDP, the rate of entrepreneurs would decrease from roughly 7.7% to 7.4%. Although that may not sound like a big number, given a population of 200 million, it would mean a loss of 600,000 start-ups. On average, every new entrepreneur employs 2 other people. Hence, an additional 1,200,000 jobs would be lost - which is roughly the adult population of Houston. These are lower bound estimates that do not take other indirect effects of unemployment benefits on the number of jobs into account, such as established firms hiring less because of decreased sales or higher social security costs."