Kline crystallizes contemporary conservatism

KLINE CRYSTALLIZES CONTEMPORARY CONSERVATISM…. Rep. John Kline (R) is poised to become chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, giving him quite a bit of power over issues of great concern to the public. He’ll be succeeding Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), who’s proven himself to be an exceptional champion of working families.

Kline prefers a different approach.

Yesterday, the conservative Republican talked with Minnesota Public Radio about his opposition to extended unemployment benefits, pointing to the budget deficit. Specifically, he was asked, “[W]hat do you tell those folks hanging on by a thread who really need those benefits?” Kline responded:

“Well, they, heh, the best thing to do for them is to get the economy back on track and get businesses hiring so that they have a job that they can go to. We simply don’t have the money to keep extending unemployment benefits indefinitely. We just don’t have the money.”

He added, “We can’t fund everything.”

In general, that’s true; we can’t “fund everything.” It’s up to policymakers in a position of power to exercise good judgment and choose between competing priorities.

On the one hand, we have hundreds of billions of dollars in tax cuts that will benefit millionaires and billionaires, and all of which would be added to the deficit. Kline supports the cuts enthusiastically. America, apparently, “has the money.”

On the other hand, we have 2.5 million Americans, all of whom are struggling badly, poised to lose jobless benefits. These benefits tend to have an impressive stimulative effect — when the unemployed get a check, they spend it — which improves the larger economy. Kline opposes the benefits, and voted against them yesterday. America, apparently, “doesn’t have the money.”

As Kline sees it, we need to get the economy “back on track.” I agree wholeheartedly. But here’s the follow-up Minnesota Public Radio didn’t ask: when 2.5 million Americans lose their buying power and spend less money, how would that help the economy get “back on track”?