Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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November 29, 2010

KIRK CRYSTALLIZES CONTEMPORARY CONSERVATISM.... Mark Kirk (R), who will be sworn in as a U.S. senator today, recently boasted of his desire to join the chamber's "Mod Squad" -- his name for the small contingent of Republican moderates with great influence in the Senate.

But on economic policy, Kirk, perhaps best known for his borderline-pathological dishonesty about his background, is anything but moderate.

The Republican told MSNBC this morning, for example, that all of the Bush-era tax rates have to be extended "no matter what."

"We should extend the Bush tax cuts and make sure we don't have a double-dip recession. And I have the honor to be the first of ninety-five new Republicans, fiscal conservatives, to help right our ship of state."

And in the same interview, Kirk was asked whether he's against extending unemployment benefits for those still struggling in the weak economy. He replied:

"That's right. You could extend it if you found a way to pay for it. And I voted for that in the past. But these proposals to extend unemployment insurance by just adding it to the deficit are misguided."

And there it is in a nutshell -- massive tax cuts, adding trillions to the debt, should be passed without hesitation, and without thinking too much about the fact that they don't actually help the economy much. Aid to the jobless, however, which has enormous stimulative benefits, must be rejected, despite their much lower costs.

This couldn't offer a more clear contrast. 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. Kirk supports the cuts "no matter what."

On the other hand, we have 2.5 million Americans, all of whom are struggling badly, poised to lose jobless benefits. These benefits, which cost about $60 billion a year, tend to have an impressive stimulative effect -- when the unemployed get a check, they spend it -- which improves the larger economy. Kirk sees this as "misguided."

We can afford hundreds of billions of dollars in tax breaks that don't work, but we can't afford tens of billions of dollars in benefits that do work.

It's all about priorities.

Steve Benen 11:25 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (14)

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It's tragic to see what has become of US politics. Bigotry, greed, blindness. This is not going to end well.

Posted by: davidp on November 29, 2010 at 11:35 AM | PERMALINK

I wonder how many of the unemployed vote for this piece of .....?

Posted by: Tigershark on November 29, 2010 at 11:35 AM | PERMALINK

How many people receiving unemployement do you suppose are likely to make significant campaign contributions to Kirk?

So how about some MSMer asking Kirk if the true reason he's for tax cuts for the rich but against unemployment benefits (since it is fact that the former don't help the economy and the latter do) is that he knows who will be giving him campaign contributions in future?

I won't hold my breath.

Posted by: robert on November 29, 2010 at 11:37 AM | PERMALINK

Remind me which larger political group is against tax cuts and for extending unemployment benefits.

Posted by: foosion on November 29, 2010 at 11:55 AM | PERMALINK

"is that he knows who will be giving him campaign contributions in future?"

The future? It's payback time for Kirk..a massive amount of outside money was funneled into the senate campaign in Illinois.

Posted by: SaintZak on November 29, 2010 at 12:14 PM | PERMALINK

How is he a "new Republican"? This bastard was in the House for the last 8 years voting for every spending bill that came up!

One of these days I will cease to be amazed at how easy it is for Republicans to lie without anyone correcting them with the, whattayacallit, um, facts!

Posted by: Lifelong Dem on November 29, 2010 at 12:15 PM | PERMALINK

The slimebag Kirk could have been beaten, if the Illinois Democratic Party had come up with a better candidate than the President's creepy pal Alexi Giannoulias. Why oh why don't we have better politicians?

Posted by: bob on November 29, 2010 at 12:27 PM | PERMALINK

Can someone please ask republicans one simple question. There are currently 11 million or more unemployed if these tax cuts are extended as you want how many people will be hired by the end of the first year? What well our deficit look like and what will overall unemployment look like at the end of the year.

Posted by: allamr18 on November 29, 2010 at 12:34 PM | PERMALINK

A decade of 'Bush Tax Cuts' haven't yielded a single job, so how in the world will extending them fix unemployment? Where are the jobs they supposedly create?

Now, unemployment benefits. That money gets spent, immediately. It's the perfect stimulus.

Posted by: doubtful on November 29, 2010 at 12:42 PM | PERMALINK

How about this: Give those who earn over $250,000 their tax cuts, *but* reduce the rate of the cuts by enough to pay for a year's worth of unemployment benefits. If by next year the high-income folks have created enough jobs to reduce the amount necessary to cover the coming year's unemployment benefits, their tax rates will be similarly reduced. That will give them an incentive to invest part of what they save on taxes in creating jobs. The tax cuts will still add to the deficit, but at least the unemployed will be provided for, and there should be fewer of them each year.

Posted by: Swift Loris on November 29, 2010 at 12:51 PM | PERMALINK

at least the unemployed will be provided for

Plus which, of course, their spending will stimulate the economy.

Posted by: Swift Loris on November 29, 2010 at 1:04 PM | PERMALINK

Republican oppositionalism is one of those now crystalline features. At brendan-nyhan.com/blog/2010/11/accusations-of-gop-economic-sabotage Nyhan takes people like you to task, Steve, for (rightly) calling it out. I defend in a comment, pls others pitch in!

Posted by: neil b on November 29, 2010 at 1:22 PM | PERMALINK

In addition to the "impressive stimulative effect", unemployment benefits have the another positive side affect of providing food, water and a roof over people's head.

Posted by: patrick II on November 29, 2010 at 1:35 PM | PERMALINK

Another gross example of the "I've got mine" meme in the Robber Barron Party. Anyone who thinks these thugs have anything buttered besides their own bread, are hopelessly naive or willfully ignorant.
They are only helping themselves.

Posted by: DougWieboldt on November 30, 2010 at 1:17 AM | PERMALINK



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