Pitching Paygo in Emergencies

I was previously unaware that a sitting member of the US Senate had been inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. It would appear that Senator Bunning of Kentucky is such a man. He came under fire this week because of his refusal to let an extension of unemployment benefits be voted on unless the cost of the bill was to be offset elsewhere.

Some folks are quite unhappy with his actions:

Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.) should be ousted from the Baseball Hall of Fame because of his block on extending unemployment benefits, according to a group that advocates for the unemployed.

The benefits expire Sunday.

“The most obscene thing he can do is prevent jobless Americans from getting their $350 a week unemployment check,” Rick Sloan, acting executive director of Ur Union of Unemployed, a grass roots organization for unemployed Americans, told The Hill.

Hear that? The senator is “preventing jobless Americans from getting their … check.” It would appear that the speaker of the particular quote does not understand that there is no ownership in the equation. If the employers paid unemployment insurance premiums (taxes by another name) to cover those who became unemployed, it was done so with the understanding that the benefits would expire after a given time (and generally at the point where the premiums dollars were used up).

Now, while I may object to the means by which unemployment payments are made, I understand that they are done so in accordance with current law. There is, however, no requirement that the payout term which is to expire tomorrow be extended.

All of that aside for a moment, there is this little thing called “paygo” which is short for “pay as you go.” You and I understand it in the context of spending the money which we have. Congress is to do the same based on some rules on which the members recently agreed. Therein lies Senator Bunnning’s  argument. He believes that this bill could be passed–as long as the money for doing so is found elsewhere and the paygo rules are followed. The sticking point–there are a number of exceptions to paygo. One simple one (by comparison with some of the other exceptions) is that the rules may be suspended in an emergency.

Of course, this means that all one has to do is wait for anything to become an emergency and then paygo is bypassed and spending continues without regard to actual funds on hand.

Everyone has known for months that the unemployment benefits–which have already been extended once or twice–were to run out tomorrow. Why is the vote on this only coming up now? Couldn’t one see a few weeks ago that the economy was unlikely to make itself so much better in the short term that unemployment numbers would drop precipitously–negating the basis for more benefits?

So, keep in mind as you read about the heartless Senator Bunning that he is trying to (much like years ago) play by the rules. Here is hoping that some of his fellows will follow his lead in this regard.