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October 24, 2011 8:35 AM McConnell’s pro-unemployment argument

By Steve Benen

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) last week kept his caucus united and killed a popular jobs bill during a jobs crisis. The plan — 400,000 jobs for teachers, police officers, and firefighters, paid for with a 0.5% surtax on millionaires and billionaires — was wildly popular with the public, but McConnell and his Senate Republicans killed it anyway.

Yesterday on CNN, Candy Crowley asked him why. The GOP leader replied:

“Well, Candy, I’m sure that Americans do, I certainly do approve of firefighters and police. The question is whether the federal government ought to be raising taxes on 300,000 small businesses in order to send money down to bail out states for whom firefighters and police work. They are local and state employees.

“Look, we have a debt the size of our economy. That alone makes us look a lot like Greece. The question is whether the federal government can afford to be bailing out states. I think the answer is no…. Look, we are not going to get this economy going by continuing to shower money on the public sector.”

By way of a fact-check, let’s note a couple of the glaring errors here. The first is that the financing relied on a small tax increase on millionaires and billionaires, not small businesses. The number of businesses affected is ridiculously small, making McConnell’s claim patently dishonest. The second is that anyone who compares America’s debt issues to Greece’s is a fool.

But the larger issue here is McConnell’s entire approach to government. Jobs for teachers and first responders, in his mind, are (a) a “local” problem, and (b) related to the public sector. They’re ultimately two sides of the same coin — McConnell cares first about ideology, not problem-solving.

It’s true that the vast majority of teachers, cops, and firefighters are hired by state and local governments, but here’s the thing: state and local governments can’t afford these jobs right now, and they can’t afford to take on debt to keep these hundreds of thousands of workers providing an extremely important public service. The federal government can afford to keep these Americans on the job, can afford to take on additional debt at practically no additional cost, and simply has to choose to do so.

McConnell is offering a philosophical response to a practical problem. It gets back to what we discussed last week — the right simply cannot fathom a pragmatic approach to governing. Democrats see a jobs crisis, want to save hundreds of thousands of jobs, craft a plan that works, and find a straightforward way to pay for it. Republicans see a jobs crisis and ask, “Are those public-sector jobs? What does our ideology tell us about aid to states? Unemployment, schlumemploymet — how does this affect the size of government?”

The GOP line doesn’t address the underlying problem because, as McConnell explained yesterday, Republicans don’t care about the underlying problem. What matters is the integrity of conservative ideology, not keeping teachers and cops on the job.

Notice, McConnell didn’t say the Democratic jobs bill would be ineffective. He knows — everyone knows — the measure would keep those Americans working, which would not only help the workers and their families, but also the local economies and those who benefit from their services. But for the Senate Minority Leader, whether the legislation would be effective or not is irrelevant.

Bringing down unemployment isn’t McConnell’s priority. Winning a philosophical argument is.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.

Comments

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  • del on October 24, 2011 8:42 AM:

    Of course there was no push back by the commentator on how ridiculous his position is.

  • Danp on October 24, 2011 8:44 AM:

    Maybe my thinking is too 2000, but Republicans really don't care about public schools until the football team needs new uniforms.

  • Davis X. Machina on October 24, 2011 8:49 AM:

    Yes, yes, yes, it'll work in pracice. But will it work in theory?

    The GOP is the last major Leninist parliamentary party in the West. -- and not even NEP-era Lenin, come to that.

  • c u n d gulag on October 24, 2011 8:50 AM:

    The problem is that Mitch "Yertle, the anti-gay gay turtle" MConnell, like all Conservatives, when handed a Rubik's Cube don't try to allign the colors.

    No, they want to smash it because it has some blue on it.

    And yet, this f*cking moronic nation puts imbeciles into positions of power.

    And then we wonder why the country is devolving into a 2nd rate 3rd World Banana Republic sh*thole.

    It's the 'banana's Republicans' stupids!!!

  • c u n d gulag on October 24, 2011 8:52 AM:

    Sorry, I forgot:

    Party over country!

    PARTY UEBER ALLES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • FRP on October 24, 2011 8:54 AM:

    del points out that the great left wing conspiracy to make great statesmen and women of the saintly right succeeds by leaving the unsaid questions The great McConnell was bursting to inform us of , unasked .
    Oh ! How long will the intellects of McConnell and Cantor be hidden by these obfuscatory "personalities" ?

    Oh , The Humdanity ,
    The Hummel's with tea ,
    The agony , the publicity

    Our democracy cannot endure
    What the left wing conspiracy obscures
    A great Reich that offers the poor hand up
    And the good people time to count
    The blessings held in being to the manor born

  • sharksbreath on October 24, 2011 9:07 AM:

    The Republican party is dead and it's trying to drag the rest of us into the grave right with it.

  • SW on October 24, 2011 9:13 AM:

    This is the very definition of fanaticism. When you allow ideology to let you make the wrong decisions over and over and over again. When ever confronted with a problem your first question is "how does this proposed solution comport with my ideology" not 'will this proposed solution work'. It is painfully obvious to all of those outside the cult who are paying attention that the Republican Party is now currently in the grips of an ideological cult. This is poisonous. The only thing more poisonous would be if the President of the United States were to try to negotiate with it, and give its absolutist demands an aura of legitimacy.

  • Ladyhawke on October 24, 2011 9:13 AM:

    The LA TIMES OPINION STAFF finally says what we all know.

    1) Obama's efforts to fix the economy have been thwarted at every turn by Republicans.


    2) The bottom line? It's wrong to say the president's domestic policies haven't worked when those policies haven't even been given the chance to work.

    It would be great to see more editorial boards saying the same thing. Also, what we really need is for network and cable tv to say this out loud.

    OBAMA SUCCEEDS -- WHEN REPUBLICANS LET HIM

    =======excerpt=====================

    An unpopular war will be officially over for us soon. Terrorists and terrorist groups that threaten us are dead or on the run. Libya�s longtime strongman has been overthrown, thanks in part to Obama�s policy that had the U.S. and NATO working together.

    But here�s a question: If Obama has been so successful in foreign policy, why has he been so unsuccessful on domestic issues?

    Sure, unemployment fell in California last month, but it's nothing to write home about. Joblessness, foreclosures, poverty -� you know the numbers, and they're not pretty.

    Even his signature domestic achievement, healthcare reform, remains under attack by Republicans. They vow to undo it as soon as they control the White House again.

    So what�s the deal?

    It isn't that he's escaped criticism on foreign policy. Republicans -- heck, even some Democrats -- have been critical of Obama's moves. But what he's done has, in the main, worked.

    No, domestically the problem is that Obama's opponents have turned criticism into obstructionism. Unlike his foreign policies, Obama's efforts to fix the economy have been thwarted at every turn by Republicans.

    ==================================


    http://opinion.latimes.com/opinionla/2011/10/obamas-presidency-foreign-policy-domestic-opposition.html

  • Ron Byers on October 24, 2011 9:22 AM:

    Last evening I talked to a man I have known my whole life. He is now 63. He has been out of work a couple of years since his corporation outsourced his job. Who hires a 60 year old cartographer. A few months ago another friend in his early 60s lost his job as controller of a successful "small" business run by one of the local billionaires. Nothing he did wrong, he was told they wanted somebody with more time before retirement. (Yeh, I know he as a lawsuit, try paying your bills with a lawsuit.)

    The point of my comments is my two white, male, white collar friends are among the group that is being sacrificed on the alter of Republican ideology. They were also proud card carrying members of the Republican base.

    I have never seen any party so hell bent to hurt people just like them. Of course, McConnell and the rest of the Republicans in Washington have no clue about what is happening outside Washington. It is one of the few full employment cities in America. I wish McConnell had some skin in the game.

    I am not sure he would care if people tied his willful ideological posturing to the real harm he and his allies are doing, but no one ever does. Maybe that is because people like Candy Crowley don't have any skin in the game either.

    You know it is funny, but my 63 year old unemployed cartographer friend felt sorry for recent college graduates who can't find work. They don't even have the chance to have their hearts broken by the Republican ideology when they reach 55, they are just saddled with debt they can never repay, debt that is very difficult to discharge.

  • Josef K on October 24, 2011 9:30 AM:

    It gets back to what we discussed last week the right simply cannot fathom a pragmatic approach to governing.

    Which, unfortunately, is something the electorate itself can't really fathom. But then who in their right mind wants to think an entire political party is orientated purely to undermine the government its supposed to be help run?

  • chi res on October 24, 2011 9:34 AM:

    Nothing he did wrong, he was told they wanted somebody with more time before retirement. (Yeh, I know he as a lawsuit, try paying your bills with a lawsuit.)

    Actually, in many states, age discrimination is perfectly legal if the business has ten or less employees. Even when the laws seem to apply, it's a very hard case to make; very few are successful.

    Hey, there's demand that could bring greater diversity to the OWS crowds: enforceable age discrimination laws. Might even get some unemployed traders to join the group.

  • slappy magoo on October 24, 2011 9:48 AM:

    "Bringing down unemployment isnt McConnells priority. Winning an election is."


    Fixed

  • @the_dan on October 24, 2011 9:58 AM:

    I think it's awfully generous to refer to McConnell's viewpoint as a "philosophy."

  • ownedByTwoCats on October 24, 2011 10:02 AM:

    McConnell said that his priority is to make sure Obama is a one-term president. Not to do what is best for the country, or even to do what is best for Kentucky. To him, Party trumps Country.

  • Anonymous on October 24, 2011 10:05 AM:

    "Bringing down unemployment isn’t McConnell’s priority. Winning a philosophical argument is."

    It's not "winning" a philosophical argument that he's concerned with. It's forcing a reality on the country that he couldn't care less what the consequences are that he wants.

    McConnell is the worst Senator, and similarly human being, in the universe.

  • Peter C on October 24, 2011 10:20 AM:

    "The question is whether the federal government ought to be raising taxes on 300,000 small businesses ..."

    Every time the Republicans say something like this in our presence, we must be ready to pounce. The bill in question raised INDIVIDUAL INCOME TAXES not business taxes. People are not businesses. Businesses are not people. It is unpopular to think they are. They need to bear the brunt of this unpopularity.

    Higher individual tax rates HELP employment since they make it marginally more attractive to retain earnings for re-investment rather than issue them as dividends to owners.

  • paul on October 24, 2011 12:27 PM:

    This has nothing to do with ideology and everything to do with elections. McConnell has no problem with deficits when republican presidents run them. And no problem with spending money to kill people, preferably in other countries. His problem is with working-class people who might have enough time and money to get to the polls if they have a job next november.

  • Trost Osler on October 24, 2011 1:35 PM:

    "The federal government can afford to keep these Americans on the job, can afford to take on additional debt at practically no additional cost, and simply has to choose to do so."

    This is a false premise. Wrong. Fail. Incorrect. Red pen through every letter. This is blindness, madness, crazy talk in an age of insanity. The federal government cannot afford additional debt. Anybody with even the slightly inkling of intelligence knows this to be the case. How can you write an article like this on such an error?

    What makes you think the Federal government can take on any more debt?

  • Get A Clue Libs on October 24, 2011 1:50 PM:

    The reason that McConnell said small business is because of the tax code. The 300,000 small businesses that he is referring to are the S-Corporations. If you have an S-Corp you are taxed as an individual, for your self and your business. That means if you own a business that generated over 1,000,000.00 in gross revenue you are considered a millionaire. What they negelect to tell you is the cost associated with 1,000,000.00 in gross revenue, payroll, rent, inventory, insurance, payroll taxes,SS taxes, FUTA, FICA etc... Just for reference, I am a small business owner that will be affected by this. My take home pay was 64,000.00 last year. I am considered a millionaire. I employ 17 people. We are struggling to make ends meet. This tax hurts me and my family as well as the families of my employees. Get a clue before you start bitching. You may be hurting yourself to give money to the teachers UNION. Not a good ide.

  • Paul Frank on October 24, 2011 1:50 PM:

    The statement below is why our country is
    disillusioned.
    "The federal government can afford to keep these Americans on the job, can afford to take on additional debt at practically no additional cost, and simply has to choose to do so."

  • Steve on October 24, 2011 1:53 PM:

    @Trost Osler: Because we just raised the debt ceiling, dumbass. States pretty much all are forced to have balanced budgets while the federal government is allowed to do deficit spending.

  • Davis X. Machina on October 24, 2011 2:12 PM:

    What makes you think the Federal government can take on any more debt?
    Negative real rates of return on a wide-ish range of Federal debt instruments?
  • Davis X. Machina on October 24, 2011 2:14 PM:

    Hmn.. blockquote fail.

    What makes you think the Federal government can take on any more debt?

    Negative real rates of return on a wide-ish range of Federal debt instruments?

  • theletterm on October 24, 2011 2:57 PM:

    These are the same people that glowingly remember Ronald Reagan as the man that shrunk government.  And by "shrunk", I mean he more than doubled it.

    How utterly pathetic.

  • lives fine on 26k on October 24, 2011 3:04 PM:

    @ get a clue libs
    really? you make 64k and are having troubles 'making ends meet'? then you are a moron. i live on 26k a year, combined. we are buying a nice house, have a car (its not new, doesnt have to be), have cable tv, internet, a phone, go camping for 2 weeks a year, have enough for food, clothes, and a few extras. how the hell are you not able to make ends meet with almost three times the income we have? take a step back, look at your lifestyle, and get rid of crap you just dont need.

  • chi res on October 24, 2011 8:57 PM:

    That means if you own a business that generated over 1,000,000.00 in gross revenue you are considered a millionaire.

    If you're paying taxes based on the gross revenue of your business, you're a total idiot.

    Odds are, however, that you're just a dumb liar.

    Come to think of it, you're probably a republican, which would make you a lieing idiot.

  • Michael Wilson on October 24, 2011 10:25 PM:

    it is time to occupy mc connell's office!

  • Michael on October 24, 2011 11:42 PM:

    I Would be deathly afraid of the massive stink of imbecile that permanantly permeates his turtle shell...

  • Terri on October 25, 2011 10:54 PM:

    Just give us the names of those who voted against this bill - and which ones are up for re-election in 2012. Then make sure @JohnWDean tweets it. That's all we need. It's time to get rid of these whackos!

  • Terri on October 26, 2011 3:00 AM:

    Just give us the names of those who voted against the jobs bill - and which ones are up for re-election in 2012. Then make sure @JohnWDean tweets it. That's all we need. It's time to get rid of these whackos!

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