Colorado’s U.S. Sen. Michael Bennett recently was heard lamenting to another senator that the lame duck session was “rigged.”
The Democrat’s aide explained that he meant the period after the election and before the new Congress takes office is “rigged to prevent progress.”
It shouldn’t be. The United States is in need of decisive action right now, and futzing about in the coming weeks is not acceptable.
Consider the unemployment-benefit extension Congress appears ready to let languish.
Despite some positive signs in the economy, the jobless rate remains above 9 percent, with about one available job for every five people seeking work — a statistic that isn’t expected to change much in the near term. Congress has never failed to extend emergency benefits when unemployment is above 7.4 percent, and this would be a cruel time to start.
Cutting loose the millions of unemployed is a mistake, especially for the individuals who could face losing their homes to foreclosure and for the economy.
The $5 billion monthly unemployment benefits price tag is also $5 billion a month that will not be moving through the American economy. That means less money to grocers and gas stations and shops. Unemployment benefits keep cash flowing in bad times.
By some twisted logic, Congress is simultaneously considering extending the Bush tax cuts for all — including the wealthiest Americans — a move that will result in more than $5 billion a month in foregone revenue.
The 10-year cost in foregone revenue is $3.7 trillion, and far too much of that would accrue to the benefit of the super rich. Republicans are using the idea that the wealthiest Americans will use their tax break extensions to create jobs, though they have no answer for why that hasn’t been the case the last several years. Giving a hand to the wealthy while abandoning the desperate is indefensible.
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