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Hullabaloo


Saturday, June 19, 2010

 
"Tough Love"

by digby

Rand Paul has some advice for the lazy unemployed:
Republican U.S. Senate candidate Rand Paul on Friday urged Americans who have been unemployed for many months to consider returning to the workforce in less desirable jobs rather than continue relying on government unemployment assistance.

"In Europe, they give about a year of unemployment. We're up to two years now in America," Paul said on Sue Wylie’s WVLK-AM 590 radio program.

"As bad as it sounds, ultimately we do have to sometimes accept a wage that's less than we had at our previous job in order to get back to work and allow the economy to get started again," Paul said. "Nobody likes that, but it may be one of the tough love things that has to happen."

Paul was responding to a question from Wylie about Thursday's Senate Republican filibuster of a $120 billion package of additional jobless benefits and state aid. Tens of thousands of Americans will have exhausted their unemployment benefits this month without that extension.

Paul said he supports the filibuster. If the Senate thinks the bill is necessary, it needs to find the money to pay for it elsewhere in the federal budget rather than add to the $13 trillion national debt, he said.

"It's all a matter of making priorities," Paul said. "Some tough decisions will have to be made."

Yes, Rand knows that some people have to make those sacrifices for the greater good. But not him. While the lazy unemployed need some "tough love," both doctors and unaccredited quacks like himself "deserve a comfortable living."

U.S. Senate candidate Rand Paul (R-KY) has made opposition to the “heavy hand” of the federal government one of the hallmarks of his political ideology. Yet, despite his anti-government rhetoric, the Kentucky opthamologist has gone on record opposing cuts to the Medicare program, saying that “physicians should be allowed to make a comfortable living.”

Last week in a show of major "tough love" the Senate couldn't pass a modest unemployment extension (even one that cut benefits $25.00 a week!) over a Republican plus conservadem filibuster. But they did manage to do this:

The Senate belatedly voted Friday to spare doctors who treat Medicare patients from a 21 precent cut in pay.
After all, the doctors "should be allowed to make a comfortable living" while the unemployed need to make sacrifices and help get the nation out of debt by destroying their hopes and dreams for a better life. Surely we can all agree that's perfectly fair.

So what's a comfortable living for Rand? The estimate of how much money he makes from Medicare (which he hasn't divulged) and Medicaid (which he has) runs somewhere between 300 and half a million dollars a year. Rand says those payments are about 50% of his income. So I think we know just what it takes for him to be "comfortable." I'd be pretty comfortable too.

This new meme about the unemployed continues to shock me, and I'm not easily shocked by rightwing rhetoric. I don't think I've ever seen this one before, however. They are making a conscious decision to portray the unemployed as the cause of high unemployment so they don't need to factor it into economic decisions. The actual point seems to be making a permanent underclass out of what were responsible members of the workforce and then demonizing them for being unemployed --- thus creating a scapegoat for continued unemployment. This also gives them an excuse to "welfare queen" these people and cut services and social spending even more under the rationale that we need to teach them a lesson in tough love. After all, we "reformed welfare as we know it" so why not "reform unemployment insurance as we know it" too?

Next step: the elderly who are living high off the hog on social security instead of selling oranges on street corners as they should. (That's another one of those good jobs that are being stolen by undocumented workers.)

Paul Krugman wrote this morning about Alan Greenspan's bizarre statement yesterday that it's unfortunate interest rates and inflation haven't spiked because it makes it harder to cut the deficit when all the predicted consequences of doing so don't materialize. Krugman writes:
You know, some people might take the fact that what’s actually happening is exactly what people like me were saying would happen — namely, that deficits in the face of a liquidity trap don’t drive up interest rates and don’t cause inflation — lends credence to the Keynesian view. But no: Greenspan KNOWS that deficits do these terrible things, and finds it “regrettable” that they aren’t actually happening.

The triumph of prejudices over the evidence is a wondrous thing to behold. Unfortunately, millions of workers will pay the price for that triumph.

Yes, they will. And it appears they are also going to be blamed for causing the problem. That "stubborn" unemployment would go away if these people would just go out and accept jobs they don't like. Like picking strawberries. Or prostitution.

It's clear that stubborn unemployment is impeding the Grand Bargain to "cut the deficit" which actually means cutting social spending of all kinds. (After all, even a high school economics student can figure out that reducing unemployment is key to reducing the deficit, so I think we can fairly assume at this point that the deficit is beside the point.) So they are attempting to change the perception that unemployment is something that happens to people and turn it into something they do to themselves, thus making it something that shouldn't require social insurance. It's a very daring thing to do because it goes right to the heart of the middle class. But from the looks of things, they are in the process of consciously turning the middle class into an underclass on all kinds of levels, so perhaps that's not an accident.

This war on the unemployed and the New Austerity is very, very creepy and I'm extremely concerned that it's going to take on a life of its own. Not only will it destroy the economy further --- it's the opposite of what needs to be done --- it's going to finally destroy what's left of our frayed social contract. This is the environment in which very unpredictable things begin to happen.


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