Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Extend jobless benefits, but pay for it

Extending unemployment benefits for three months ought to be a non-controversial proposition, but that’s also true about the notion of paying for it.

Democrats say simple compassion makes the issue an emergency. But our national debt is an emergency too, and we shouldn’t be adding to it.

The unprecedented extension is necessary due to the weak pace of our economic recovery, but that should be blamed, at least partially, on politicians of both parties. While it is true economists disagree on the importance of reducing — or at least not adding to — the  $17-trillion national debt, the risks of not seriously addressing it are certainly greater than any temporary cost of dealing with it.

We have seen the evidence of economic collapse due to profligate public spending in places like Greece, Cyprus and Detroit. And when the crisis comes, there is little warning, just as there was little warning for the financial crisis of 2008.

What U.S. Sen. Rand Paul said the other day about extending the benefits may not have been popular, but he at least was one of the few in Congress with the courage to say it.

“What I have always said is that it needs to be paid for, but we also need to do something for long-term unemployed people and that is we need to create something new that would create jobs,” Paul told ABC News.

“So what I’d like to do when we get back is one, if we extend it we pay for it, but two, we add something to it that would create jobs … I do think, though, that the longer you have it, that it provides some disincentive to work, and that there are many studies that indicate this,” Paul said. “So, what I’ve been saying all along, we have to figure out how to create jobs and keep people from becoming long-term unemployed.”

The price tag to the government for extending the benefits is $6.5 billion. It can easily be paid for with agreed-upon reforms of the nation’s farm subsidy program, reductions in military spending or cuts to non-essential bureaucratic programs in the Departments of Education or Transportation.

Congress ought to be able to get this done, but the temptation to play politics with the issue may be formidable.

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