The other day Republican Senator Jim Bunning waged a one-man war on, among other things, extension of unemployment benefits. Among the highlights: “Tough shit” and “[gives finger].” (And this was without being required to perform a real, talk-all-day filibuster, so you can’t put it down to fatigue.)
Now Republican Senator Jon Kyl (pictured) argues that unemployment benefits are a “disincentive” to work. While admitting that the jobless “would like work and probably have tried to seek it,” the Senator believes that “continuing to pay people unemployment compensation is a disincentive for them to seek new work.”
It has been many years since we received unemployment benefits, which we did indeed enjoy, but at that time New York was a much cheaper place to live, and we were much younger. Some badly-paid twentysomethings may still enjoy the break, which is being offered in evidence that “the safety net has become in some cases a hammock” and as a defense of Kyl. But kids often make foolish decisions — like eschewing health insurance, which can lead to unfortunate results. Adults, on the other hand, are obliged in our hyperproductive society to beat their brains out to avoid penury, and for them unemployment checks are hardly an adequate fallback.
For this reason even Chambers of Commerce, hardly socialist organizations, can be moved to support expansion of unemployment insurance when push comes to shove. It would appear the national GOP is trying to pitch a Randian work-or-starve line in the teeth of a recession. We’re not sure why they think it’s a good strategy; maybe, in the absence of strong leadership, they’re not thinking strategically at all.