Unemployed single mom Kathleen Hackett introduces President Obama at the White House on Tuesday. Democrats have a good opportunity on the employment fight if they can take advantage of it. PHOTO: Reuters
Unemployment benefits are on their way to passing the Senate after a bill to extend them for three months cleared a procedural hurdle. Unemployment benefits are humane, good for the economy and perfectly reasonable given the current high ratio of job seekers to job openings. A common sense measure like this has no chance of passing the House unless they add in some damaging cuts to other social services.
Actually, Republicans so far have made their standard offer: we’ll pass unemployment benefits if there are an equal amount of cuts elsewhere. That’s a bad way to govern, and might not even lower the deficit (which is the entire point of insisting on cuts) due to the harm caused to the economy, but whatever, that’s their offer, and they control the House.
What Democrats need to realize is that this provides an opening for them: there are plenty of cuts that are more acceptable to Democrats than Republicans, and fit perfectly into the Democrats’ populist theme of 2014.
What kind of cuts? How about subsidies to big oil? Does anyone, Republican or Democrat, want to go on record saying they would like to preserve those, but cut social security? Or how about reducing the free money we give to big banks in the form of low borrowing rates and de facto insurance (from knowing that the government will bail them out because they are too big to fail). The War on Drugs is an easy target, because, hey no one says we have to spend taxpayer money raiding medical marijuana dispensaries.
The point is that there is a LOT of government waste out there, and some of it Democrats would be happier to shed than Republicans (like all the tax loopholes that serve no purpose other than to make corporations richer). And, “I want to stop the handouts to billion dollar corporations and give that money back to the lower and middle class,” is a slogan that works in any part of the country.
The Republicans are giving Democrats an opening here, and Democrats can do some good for the country and their election chances in November by pouncing on it.
UPDATE: Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) who voted to advance the bill proposed raising revenue by cracking down on people who claim tax money by pretending to have more kids than they do. While it would be better to go after gluttonous billion dollar corporations than poor people sneaking some tax money, seeing any Republican offering revenue to make unemployment benefits is an encouraging sign.