Two Cheers for Bunning's Bunt

At least he tried, briefly, to make the Senate pay for new spending.

With ten percent of Americans unemployed and nearly as many underemployed or having given up, what sort of hard-hearted Scrooge would prevent help from being given to them?  What sort of madness would possess a politician to flip the bird to his suffering constituents this way?  Yet that's exactly what Sen. Jim Bunning (R, KY) did in obstructing an extension of unemployment benefits - or so we are told.

Who is telling us this?  The Democrats and the mainstream media, which should be your first warning.  Far from being a stone-cold miser, Sen. Bunning's noble stand presented a vanishingly rare example of doing what is right, not what is expedient.

Emergency, Yes, But It Still Must Be Paid For!

First, the lie:  Sen. Bunning did not filibuster the bill extending unemployment benefits.  He didn't even attempt a filibuster.

All he did, by refusing to agree to what's called "unanimous consent," was force the matter to be discussed and debated.  Isn't that what we pay Senators to do?

Our Congress so loves creating new laws we must obey and spending money we don't have that they can't even be bothered to read or talk about much of it.  For bills which are thought to be uncontroversial, like extending unemployment benefits in the teeth of a recession, they basically ask, "Anybody mind if we just consider it passed and move on?  No?  OK, it's passed, next bill..."  Sen. Bunning stood up and said "No!", to everyone's shock.

Yet what was the result?  The bill still passed; the benefits were still extended.  But we had to talk about it first.

Don't you think we need to stop this?

That's what's essential - because as important and helpful as unemployment benefits are, we still have to pay for them.

Just this year, Congress and Obama signed "Pay-Go" legislation, which in theory requires all spending to be paid for either by spending cuts elsewhere or by tax increases.  In other words, we're supposed to start reducing our mammoth, gargantuan, historic deficits - and not a moment too soon.

The ink on "Pay-Go" hasn't even dried, and here come the Democrats trying to pass yet more spending without paying for it.  Important spending, yes.  Necessary spending, even.  And in the grand scheme of things, the $10 billion cost is infinitesimal.

But Sen. Bunning pointed out that the tiny size of the bill was precisely why it ought to be paid for:

Many people asked me, "Why now?" My answer is, "Why not now?" Why can't a non-controversial measure in the Senate that would help those in need be paid for? If the Senate cannot find $10 billion to pay for a measure we all support, we will never pay for anything[emphasis added]

He's hit the nail on the head and anyone who pays the slightest attention to politics knows it: Our Congress has totally gotten out of the habit of ever paying for anything.  They just spend, and spend, and spend; no worries about where the money will come from!  The Chinese will always lend us more!

Except that, sooner or later, they won't.  The Chinese have already sent us a warning by selling off a record amount of US government bondsChinese audiences publicly laughed at Treasury Secretary Geithner when he tried to reassure them that we're good for our debts.  They are well aware that when you owe the bank trillions, the bank has a problem.

But back to poor beleaguered Sen. Bunning.  It's no surprise that the Democrats complained; they've never let anything stand in the way of spending other people's money and they don't care whose it is.

The truly shameful and deeply depressing news is that the Senator's fellow Republicans hung him out to dry twisting in the wind.  National Review mourned in disgust:

Here's the sad truth: For all the shining they did at last week's White House "summit" on health care, when it gets down to actually putting the brakes on the Big Gummint Express, most of today's Republicans are AWOL. They're great at the debate society. But making the fight on something concrete, really saying no when it means grinding redistribution to a halt, means taking the slings and arrows. No thanks, they say, let's just make the whole thing go away on a voice vote, the sooner the better.

We at Scragged are not really inclined to support a third party; historically, in the American system third parties simply do not work.  All they accomplish is the exact opposite of their goals, since they split the vote on their side of the political spectrum and allow their bitterest enemies to triumph.

Sometimes we can't help but wonder if the old canard about the Evil Party and the Stupid Party has become so profoundly true, that it's time to kill off the Stupids in the hopes that something, anything, would be more effective at stopping the Evils.

If we cannot even get the supposed "conservative" party to stand together on sound fiscal principles, what hope is there for permanent improvements?  Publish all the editorials you please arguing for a Constitutional amendment limiting government spending; that'll be just as effective as promising to have a lower credit card bill next month.  It's time to cut up the credit cards today, trash the debit cards, lock up the ATM cards, and live on cash only no matter how painful.

But who will lead us?  The ancient prophet Ezekiel reported God bemoaning:

And I sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it: but I found none[emphasis added]

Not even Senator Bunning: After hanging on alone for almost a week, he knuckled under and signed off on unanimous consent, the $10 billion still unpaid for by even the slightest reduction elsewhere, not even using unspent stimulus dollars.  Thanks for... well, not so very much, Senator, but more than the rest of your party!

Petrarch is a contributing editor for Scragged.  Read other articles by Petrarch or other articles on Economics.
Reader Comments
I think that the Unemplyed must be looked after first before tackling other issues of national inerest.
March 8, 2010 4:46 PM
it's too bad Republicans are still in their spend spend spend mode... Bunning relented anyway, so it is only a question of who is the bigger spender, which is really irrelevant since neither party wishes to seriously consider their addiction to wasting our money.
March 8, 2010 6:40 PM

I actually agree with you that the unemployed must be looked after, but disagree with the very premise that the federal government has any business doing it.

As I've repeated time after time, there is simply no constitutional authority for it. And there's a reason there's for that: governments are horrible at social policy. The historical record around the world is the primary evidence for this. No theory required.
March 8, 2010 10:59 PM

yes, i agree with you two.. that unemployed must be the first issue to be resolved. hopefully they'll realize it..
March 8, 2010 11:46 PM
So, dreamz,

What's your solution for solving the unemployment problem? (I know what mine is...)
March 9, 2010 9:43 AM
The solution is simple - the government should get out of the way. EPA regulations, OSHA, zoning, talk of energy prices going up, talk of labor costs going up, all that makes nobody want to hire anyone.

When Reagan encouraged "animal spirits," Americans realized he wouldn't trash them with new laws when they got going. Obama threatens to tax the socks off everyone in the name of fairness.
March 9, 2010 6:52 PM
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