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Home Publications Blogs Beat the Press Are Republicans Balking at Stimulus in an Election Year Because They Want to Raise Unemployment?

Are Republicans Balking at Stimulus in an Election Year Because They Want to Raise Unemployment?

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Tuesday, 29 June 2010 05:00

The Post noted that Congress has been reluctant to extend unemployment benefits in spite of the evidence that they will boost the economy. It then told readers that: "Congress is balking at the added expense in an election year, as Republicans accuse Democrats of out-of-control spending and as many rank-and-file Democrats struggle to justify an increase in already sky-high deficits."

It is not clear that members who oppose extending benefits (most of whom are Republican) are actually concerned "out-of-control" spending or "sky-high" deficits. Of course, spending grew in response to the economic downturn, as the Post should know. So it is misleading to refer to it as "out-of-control" or the deficits as "sky-high."

While the Republicans who oppose stimulus measures such as extending unemployment benefits because they are now concerned about budget deficits (most were not during the Bush presidency), it is also possible that they oppose these measures because they feel they would gain politically in November from seeing them voted down. It is likely that a weak economy will benefit the Republicans in the election. This article should have at least noted the possibility that politicians may not act for the reasons they claim in public, sometimes they don't.

This piece also said that President Obama "acknowledged" that reining in the debt may require cuts in Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. The correct word would be "said" or "asserted" unless the Post has some independent basis for knowing that changes in such programs are necessary, in which case it should share this evidence with readers.

Comments (10)Add Comment
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written by izzatzo, June 29, 2010 7:47
... it is also possible that they oppose these measures because they feel they would gain politically in November from seeing them voted down.


Another sign of a backward upside down world, the Rush Limbaugh "we hope it fails" drumbeat because we know it could succeed.

Crime has increased so there needs to be more funding for police on the street, but let's not fund it due to the excess debt, and push tax reductions instead to get elected on the claim that this will generate enough tax revenue to fund more police. Then we can say they failed for allowing too much crime.

Stupid liberals.
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written by John Emerson, June 29, 2010 10:51
If times are bad, the party in power loses. The Democrats are the party theoretically in power, but they're letting the Republicans use holds and the filibuster to control the show. The Republicans are doing what you'd expect, but why are the Democrats being so passive.
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written by scottinnj, June 29, 2010 12:14
Don't know why dems don't force a filibuster - let the country see the party of No in action.

We all know there is Pork but extending unemployment benefits isn't one of those
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written by Peter T, June 29, 2010 1:36
Dean, I normally agree with your analysis, but this headline was cheap - equally well you could ask: Are Democrats Wanting Stimulus in an Election Year Because They Want Lower Unemployment Until November?
I would not put it past them
written by floccina, June 29, 2010 4:16
I would not put it past them nor the Democrats if it was the other way around. You got lie a lot to get elected.
BTW why don't the Democrats
written by floccina, June 29, 2010 4:22
BTW why don't the Democrats do a FICA holiday. That seems like the best stimulus possible and is widely supported by economists.

They will not do it because they think that it would hurt the Democratic party's long term prospects. Were more money for teachers and planned parenthood, big democratic party supporters, will help.
It is a rational choice for Republicans
written by thomas, June 29, 2010 4:30
If you were out of power and your opponent was doing something that could make you lose, it would be a rational choice to thwart your opponents' strategy for winning.

The Marxist analysis suggests that capitalism is running out of profitable investment opportunities. Thus, privatization (already a long and slow process) will provide new investment opportunities. Large deficits are the key to privatization because budget deficits justify further "austerity measures."
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written by Queen of Sheba, June 29, 2010 7:31
Dean does not seem to be arguing for or against the tactics the Republicans are using to increase their chances of winning congressional seats this fall, i.e., delay, obstruction, and a new-found concern about federal deficits. His point is the Post's terminology in reporting on the reasons that efforts to pass the unemployment extension has repeatedly failed - especially the Post's use of the term "sky-high spending," which is the paper's own terminology. Also the Post makes no effort to attribute the Republicans' continued objection to the bill as possibly politically motivated.

We can argue here about the best ways to approach the unemployment problem and the multiplier effects of one or another way of getting money into the hands of people so they can spend it and thereby create demand - I happen to favor a CCC or WPA approach of direct hiring and training by the federal government, especially since another idea, a FICA holiday, wouldn't help the unemployed at all.

But it's difficult to argue that the Post's reporting is skewed, however covertly, toward deficit reduction and austerity measures rather than further stimulus spending, and the paper seems to have an aversion to reporting on the Republicans' political tactics. I have no idea why they've taken this tack unless it's to pander to what they perceive to be the preferences of the majority of their readers - investors, bond holders and top income earners.
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written by zinc, June 30, 2010 8:00
"I have no idea why they've taken this tack unless it's to pander to what they perceive to be the preferences of the majority of their readers - investors, bond holders and top income earners."

The irony is that investors, bond holders, and top income earners stand on the shoulders of the successful FDR and LBJ middle class. With each redistribution of income upwards and tax, pension, and risk burden downward, the platform becomes more and more shakey.

These are the real tea bags, not the lunatic fringe we see on the evening news. The Reagan/Bush libertarian fools who think their good fortune is a result of devine intervention or natural selection.

I feel so much better that another small town cowboy hick from Wyoming, Alan Simpson, joins with Dick Cheney in determining the course of America's future.
CCC or WPA
written by floccina, June 30, 2010 11:17
I happen to favor a CCC or WPA approach of direct hiring and training by the federal government, especially since another idea, a FICA holiday, wouldn't help the unemployed at all.

A 3rd idea would be to send every citizen a check. Of course if you need a road, bridge or whatever now is a great time to build it because wages are down, interest rates for the fed Gov are down and there is less crowding out. CCC or WPA requires overseers.

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About Beat the Press

Dean Baker is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C. He is the author of several books, his latest being The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive. Read more about Dean.

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