Sunday, March 7, 2010

Krugman: The Parties Live In Different Universes

Paul Krugman took Senator Jim Bunning's (R-KY) failed blockade of unemployment benefits, which interrupted payments to around 100,000 workers, as testimony to the different intellectual and moral universes Democrats and Republicans live in:

...What Democrats believe is what textbook economics says: that when the economy is deeply depressed, extending unemployment benefits not only helps those in need, it also reduces unemployment. That’s because the economy’s problem right now is lack of sufficient demand, and cash-strapped unemployed workers are likely to spend their benefits...

In contrast, Republicans like Senator Jon Kyl (AZ) believe that a one-month extension of unemployment benefits will be a "disincentive for them to seek new work":

In Mr. Kyl’s view, then, what we really need to worry about right now — with more than five unemployed workers for every job opening, and long-term unemployment at its highest level since the Great Depression — is whether we’re reducing the incentive of the unemployed to find jobs. To me, that’s a bizarre point of view — but then, I don’t live in Mr. Kyl’s universe.

The difference is also clear in the health care debate:

During the debate over unemployment benefits, Senator Jeff Merkley, a Democrat of Oregon, made a plea for action on behalf of those in need. In response, Mr. Bunning blurted out an expletive. That was undignified — but not that different, in substance, from the position of leading Republicans.

It's clear, in addition, in the priority Democrats give to extending benefits to the jobless and the Republicans to repealing estate taxes for a minuscule portion of the wealthiest:

Now, the House has already passed a bill that, by exempting the assets of couples up to $7 million, would leave 99.75 percent of estates tax-free. But that doesn’t seem to be enough for Mr. Kyl; he’s willing to hold up desperately needed aid to the unemployed on behalf of the remaining 0.25 percent. That’s a very clear statement of priorities.

Finally, the implications are clear in terms of the possibility of bipartisanship:

...bipartisanship is now a foolish dream. How can the parties agree on policy when they have utterly different visions of how the economy works, when one party feels for the unemployed, while the other weeps over affluent victims of the “death tax”?

Or, to apply a New York expression to the topic of bipartisanship: fuhgetaboutit.

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