Jim Bunning – Causing Ruckus On Jobs Issues

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Posted on 1st March 2010 by Ben Krasner in Politics - U.S. National

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Is Bunning just being a headache?  Or is he correct in being  financially responsible?
Many feel Jim Bunning is being nothing more than a headache for Democrats in Washington, D.C.

It seems Jim Bunning is back in the news for a couple of his efforts over the past week.  Democrats publicly ripped Bunning for blocking a heavily followed bill dealing largely with the proposed extension of federal unemployment benefits and the Department of Transportation is none-too-pleased with him, either.

Working on emotionally charged issues – as saving or creating jobs and unemployment benefits certainly are these days – Bunning single-handedly threw a filibuster into the works (what else is new from the GOP in Washington) to block a bill which would have both extended federal unemployment benefits and provide a short-term extension of the Highway Trust Fund which was set up to pay for projects around the country.  As a result of the bill not passing, more than a million of the unemployed will be losing their federal unemployment benefits this month and up to 2,000 employees at the Transportation Department will be sent home without pay due to insufficient funding on projects.

In his defense, let me point out that Bunning’s one and only objection to the bill is the funding issue itself.  This is a good thing and something that no politician should ever be put on trial for… I believe the item that has most people hot under the collar is purely the timing of the effort.  Now that “pay as you go” has become a key phrase in recent politics, Bunning, who is retiring at the end of the year, is likely looking to go out to pasture in noble fashion (like most politicians try to do) by finally showing that  Republicans are interested in appropriate finance and budgeting.  This is a great time to start, after all… while the Democrats hold control and are trying to push bills through quicker than a quarter mile in the movie ‘The Fast and the Furious”.  NOW the republicans wise up – convenient.

So the question is simply this: is this decision to block this bill in balance?  What we have is a bill that about 1.2 – 1.4 million people are relying on to either bridge the gap until they can (or want to) secure employment or to stay afloat for a while longer along with an unknown amount of people involved with the construction projects that are now put on hold and who may need to be added to the unemployment circuit.  The cost attached to this bill is $10 billion.  Doing quick math we’re talking about $8,333 for each of the 1.2 million (using the lower number) people on the unemployment chopping block, and that number does NOT include the funding for the DOT projects that is a part of the bill.

Does that seem to be at all in balance?  We’re not talking about a couple pet projects, here, we’re talking about people – somewhere between a million and 1.5 million individuals.  If you’re still teetering on the edge of that decision, consider the sunk costs (what we’ve already spent, in essence) of the stimulus as a whole.  I know that when you’re budgeting and planning you’re never supposed to be looking at sunk costs, but I find them relevant when we’re talking about people – not just capital investment and marketing.  So while I give a golf clap of applause to Bunning for trying to play ball the right way on his way out the door, I think we need to take another look at what we’re doing on the bills at hand.

My guess is Bunning is financially right, here, but has simply not been able to do HIS JOB as a politician in Washington; and that is convince people he’s right, rally them to his cause and find a solution.  There’s not much I can’t stand more than those who are unwilling to act to find a solution to problems staring them right in the face.  My guess is I’m not alone on that one, either, judging by the reaction around the web after this news broke.