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Saturday, October 22, 2016

WASHINGTON — Why are we arguing about issues that were settled decades ago? Why, for example, is it so hard to extend unemployment insurance at a time when the jobless rate nationally is still at 7 percent, and higher than that in 21 states?

As the Senate votes this week on help for the unemployed, Democrats will be scrambling to win support from the handful of Republicans they’ll need to get the required 60 votes. The GOP-led House, in the meantime, shows no signs of moving on the matter.

It hasn’t always been like this. It was not some socialist but a president named George W. Bush who declared: “These Americans rely on their unemployment benefits to pay for the mortgage or rent, food, and other critical bills. They need our assistance in these difficult times, and we cannot let them down.”

Bush spoke those words, as Jason Sattler of The National Memo noted, in December 2002, when the unemployment rate was a full point lower than it is today.

Similarly, raising the minimum wage wasn’t always so complicated. The parties had their differences on the concept, but a solid block of Republicans always saw regular increases as a just way of spreading the benefits of economic growth.

The contention over unemployment insurance and the minimum wage reflects the larger problem in American politics. Rather than discussing what we need to do to secure our future, we are spending most of our energy re-litigating the past.

A substantial section of the conservative movement is now determined to blow up the national consensus that has prevailed since the Progressive and New Deal eras. The consensus envisions a capitalist economy tempered by government intervention to reduce inequities and soften the cruelties that the normal workings of the market can sometimes inflict.

This bipartisan understanding meant that conservatives such as Bush fully accepted that it was shameful to allow fellow citizens who had done nothing wrong to suffer because they had been temporarily overwhelmed by economic forces beyond their control.

The current debate is flawed for another reason: It persistently exaggerates how divided we are. Of course there are vast cultural differences across our nation. It’s not just a cliché that the worldview of a white evangelical Christian in Mississippi is quite distant from the outlook of a secularist on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. African-Americans, Latinos, Asians and whites can offer rather diverse interpretations of the meaning of our national story.

  • charleo1

    Obviously the Right has changed dramatically since those pre-Great Recession, and T-Party days, When George W. Bush, and the Republican Party actually gave a damn what becomes of these Americans and their families. When their savings are gone, the economy has not yet fully recovered, and now the one lifeline keeping the rent paid, the lights on, and food on the table, is now gone as well. These Americans deserve better. The Country deserves better, than these no compromise, no compassion, do nothings. They claim, they are not aganist the benefits, Noooo. But,
    being fiscally responsible they want the three month extension that would cost about
    six billion, off set with cuts elsewhere. Fine! Then why don’t the jack asses take the
    24 billion they squandered with an idiotic, and ultimately useless, government shut
    down, and offset the extension with that? Or take just a small percentage of that subsidy money from any number of those favored corporate clients they are so
    fond of? They would never miss it. But of course, they would never! No, this must be programs that other hard pressed Americans need to keep their heads above water right now. So, taking from the poor, to feed the financially destitute, while the wealthy elite roll in their good fortune. Not a hair on their heads be touched. This is the issue for 2014. Let’s please, please, plaeez! get out and vote like our future depended on it! It just might.

    • disqus_ivSI3ByGmh

      I know – they can take the money from the corporate tax breaks and corporate welfare that the Koch Brothers, the Romneys, Haliburton, and all these other do-nothing “job-non-creators” have been getting since Dubya announced his Compassionate Conservatism.

    • latebloomingrandma

      The cost could be offset it by eliminating lunches and dinners paid on the taxpayers dime. When I was in the workforce, we bought our own lunch. People making minimum wage buy their own lunch. I see no reason to reimburse Congresspersons ,who make a highly livable wage, for eating while they simultaneously cut food stamps and unemployment benefits.

      • charleo1

        You’re absolutely right. There’s a lot of things they could do. But, as
        I said to another commenters good idea as to how they could pay
        for it. They just don’t care about regular folks.

    • plc97477

      They could take the money for the next couple of defund aca votes and take care of the problem.

      • charleo1

        They could, but with all that is in them, they don’t care.

  • dpaano

    It would be interesting if our ex-President Bush would get some cojones and stand up and tell the Republicans that he does not believe in their idea of taking away unemployment during this time of need. He might even somewhat redeem himself, but I doubt he’d do that (Cheney probably wouldn’t let him).

  • bhaggen

    Don’t kid yourself; both parties were responsible for the shutdown. Obama could’ve sent each of us $100K but chose to bailout the wealthy, Big Corporations instead. You & I don’t matter to EITHER party. Next will be insurance company bailouts.

    • docb

      Lie to yourself,ggen. The knowledgeable are not buying the bagger deflection. We watched jomac cruz make a fool of himself and House little lemmings follow him down the rabbit hole in Sept 2013.

      Sell it to someone who needs to believe the rw BS.