Ah, today’s morning gem:
The House Republican leadership managed to get one thing right in its bill to extend the payroll tax cut and unemployment benefits. The bill does, indeed, extend the payroll tax cut for another year, but, beyond that, there is a lot to dislike. To help pay for the package, for instance, the bill would cut social spending more deeply than is already anticipated under current budget caps without asking wealthy Americans to contribute a penny in new taxes.
It also holds the expiring provisions hostage to irrelevant but noxious proposals to undo existing environmental protections. Worse, it would make unemployment compensation considerably stingier than it is now.
Let’s think about this a bit. The goal is to avoid a tax increase to enhance economic growth and thereby create jobs. Only in the most twisted logic is the right way to avoid a tax increase to … wait for it … raise taxes!
The bill also takes on the president’s most transparent political dodge — delaying (and effectively killing) the Keystone XL pipeline for “environmental scrutiny.” There is nothing to learn. The aquifer is well understood and this is not the first pipeline across it. Dear New York Times, if you want jobs, don’t kill jobs. And don’t unleash the EPA on a costly green agenda, the NLRB on an anti-growth labor agenda, and HHS on an economy-crushing social agenda. The bill does what it can on those fronts as well.
Finally, we have the predictable crying wolf over reforms to unemployment insurance. In light of the fact that unemployment services should be directed to getting Americans get back to work, the bill lays out a a two-step process to gradually reduce current maximum weeks of benefits from 99 to 59 weeks. That’s a level more in line with the research literature and past recessions. It also reforms the programs to better utilize taxpayer resources.
But the main point is that jobs are better than unemployment insurance. The bill takes on the challenge directly and does not expand the debt — the greatest threat of all.
It also evidently flunks the New York Times test. Good.