House Republicans are expected later today to engage in yet another one of their acts of economic sabotage. After a rare bipartisan agreement in the Senate to temporarily extend a worker payroll tax break and extended unemployment benefits for two months, getting both initiatives past a December 31 deadline and giving Congress more time to work out the details of a full-year extension, House Republicans aim to wreck it in their Tea-Party drunken rage.
Never mind that their refusal to accept “yes” for an answer even to some of their more egregiously out-of-line demands—such as their demand for expedited consideration of the Keystone XL oil pipeline that President Obama had earlier threatened to veto if it appeared in the payroll tax cut extension—will take billions of dollars out of workers’ take-home pay, thus slowing a fragile economy and killing jobs.
“There they go again. The country needs these measures to infuse cash into the economy and the Republicans torpedo them for political reasons,” said Roger Hickey, co-director of Campaign for America’s Future, in a news statement today. “House Republicans claim they support extending payroll tax cuts and unemployment insurance, but every time Congress gets close, they add on onerous conditions or renege on previous deals. We call that sabotage.”
“Even if you passed the payroll tax cuts and unemployment insurance, the government would still be doing less to boost the economy than they did last year, which is folly with 23 million Americans unemployed,” said Robert Borosage, co-director of the Campaign for America’s Future. “The Republican House Majority has blocked every proposed bill that would actually create jobs. They have forced the U.S. into austerity. It’s either pure blind stupidity or craven treachery designed for a political purpose.”
Borosage said, “If we don’t assume the Republicans are dim-witted, the only conclusion is that they are happy to go contribute to mass unemployment that they can blame the President for.”
Whatever the reason, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is not bending over and taking the House Republican shenanigans. David Dayen at Firedoglake offers a good summary of the state of play between the two houses of Congress and cites a statement from Reid:
In a statement, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said that “If Republicans vote down the bipartisan compromise negotiated by Republican and Democratic leaders, and passed by 89 senators including 39 Republicans, their intransigence will mean that in ten days, 160 million middle class Americans will see a tax increase, over two million Americans will begin losing their unemployment benefits, and millions of senior citizens on Medicare could find it harder to receive treatment from physicians.”
The very fact that Democrats are having a serious discussion about how to “pay for” a tax break intended to stimulate the Main Street economy without a surtax on millionaires is already an exceptional, and exceptionally bad, concession, since “paying for” an economic stimulus in this way invariably involves taking from working-class and middle-class people with one hand and giving back with the other—at best, a wash, not a real increase in economic growth.
We need the government to spend more in the short term to stimulate demand. The Progressive Caucus’s latest jobs and economic recovery bill is one example of the set of policies that we should be debating. Instead, Congress is arguing over whether an economy that has had its head bashed in and is bleeding profusely should get a pain-killer.
Dean Baker, whose latest column in The Guardian unsparingly details the political failures that brought us to this point, reiterates the point we’ve made repeatedly for years about the king of economic policy we need, as opposed to the kind of economic policies being proffered by both political parties. “People had to understand that we are poor because the country as a whole is spending too little to keep the workforce fully employed, not that the government is spending too much.”
So far, more than 13,000 people have signed our petition calling for House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell to “to quit trying to sabotage the economy, and support the extension of the temporary payroll tax cut and long-term unemployment insurance without spending cuts that would negate the stimulative effects. This is the bare minimum Congress can do to keep the economy from sinking into a double-dip recession.”
We need more signatures so Republicans get an unmistakeable message: Enough. Stop sabotaging the economy.
Here’s what else you can do (courtesy of the AFL-CIO): Dial 1-888-245-3381 and tell the person who answers the phone: “Please pass the Senate’s bill to extend unemployment aid and middle-class tax cuts immediately.” You can also call House Speaker John Boehner at 202-225-0600 and tell him, “You and your Tea Party supporters can’t keep hurting the American people just so you can get what you want. Stop this temper tantrum and pass the Senate’s bipartisan bill to extend unemployment aid and middle-class tax cuts now.”