This Year’s Sacrifice

So it appears a budget “deal” that raises appropriations above sequester levels and avoids another government shutdown will involve sacrificing the Democratic priority of extending unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed. It’s not clear why congressional Democrats are making it so clear so early that these folks are going to be the first to go over the side, but as Greg Sargent reports abundantly today, the signals are unmistakable.

It feels a lot like last year’s holiday “deal” where higher payroll taxes were the price that supposedly had to be paid to get a partial continuation of the Bush tax cuts.

I would pose this question to big fans of bipartisan budget deals, because it’s one that almost never gets asked or answered: which party’s basic economic theories are being implemented by this disposal of UI benefits? To conservatives, the long-term unemployed are at best sad-sack losers whose failed lives we can no longer afford to subsidize, at at worst vicious looters keeping job-creators from doing their duty for us all. To progressives, the same people are victims of bad macroeconomic policies, wasted essential human capital, and potential consumers who could help lift the economy.

Yes, the presumed deal will help keep appropriations higher than they would otherwise be, which will have significant macroeconomic and microeconomic benefits. But when it comes to the long-term unemployed, those suffering the most from both parties’ mistakes, it’s no compromise at all.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.