I have to say that I don’t get why Senator Bunning is doing what he is doing in the way that he is doing it. Taking a stand on government spending is terrific, but this particular piece of spending — unemployment benefits — seems like a strange place to start.
The Atlantic’s Megan McArdle explains why:
. . . in recessions, the length of time for which people need “temporary” assistance stretches out. That means that the government has to respond with temporary benefit extensions. These aren’t just good for the people who are unemployed; it’s also good for us. Unemployment assistance is one of the “automatic fiscal stabilizers” that all but the most hard-nosed conservative economists agree help smooth the business cycle in modern industrial countries. Indeed, it’s one of the most effective forms of stimulus we have.
She’s right. Megan adds that it’s also bad politics; she’s right on that too. And not just because of the fact that just about everyone knows someone who has been laid off (and/or is anxious about their own employment prospects).
By blocking the (eminently sensible) COBRA subsidy for the newly unemployed, Bunning is, I suspect, acting as the best possible recruiting sergeant for the cause of health-care reform now. The Democrats will, I’m sure, be most grateful.