July 05, 2010

HARD TIMES

Guest Editorial by Senator Mike Crapo

Idaho families certainly face hard times today. The unemployment rate is well above 10% in many Idaho counties. Our federal budget deficit is approaching the point where it will eclipse our domestic economic output. But Congress just keeps running up the federal deficit-even with some issues that seem well-intentioned, but that will burden future generations with incalculable debt.

It is hard to take a big picture view of federal spending, particularly when something as personal as unemployment benefits is part of the equation. But federal spending is out of control, and the push to keep raiding taxpayers' pockets, both present and future, just keeps coming. I have held strong and voted against measures that are now adding to that expanding deficit: TARP, special interest deals and bailouts to big banks, automobile companies, insurance companies, and others. And that's not even mentioning the hundreds of billions of bailout headed for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. This is unsustainable debt we are leaving our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Hard times really bring things into focus. In our nation's past, hard times brought corrective measures: oppressive rule and unfair taxation policies sparked the American Revolution and the Boston Tea Party; civil rights concerns brought about change. The Great Depression launched new federal assistance programs.

There are interim solutions to help those in need. Over the last month, the U.S. Senate debated ways to assist those who are unemployed and also bridge cost shortages in health care programs at the state level. At issue was how to best assist those who are unemployed, but also of concern, was paying for that assistance. I, along with every other Republican in the U.S. Senate, supported an extension of unemployment benefits amendment that would have taken unspent federal funds already allocated for the stimulus and other programs, and redirected that money to pay for the fourth proposed extension of unemployment benefits. Democrats rejected our proposal, which was paid for, and pushed to plow ahead with more deficit spending, money that would be added onto the already burgeoning federal debt and deficit.

The main difference in the two approaches was that the Republican plan did not increase the deficit or the national debt; the various Democratic proposals would have increased the national debt by $33 to $79 billion, depending on the extra spending proposals that were tacked on. The Republicans did not agree with raising (yet again) the national debt, which has now passed $13 trillion. You can see the debt clock for yourself at http://www.usdebtclock.org/ And yet the end result was reported to the public with misleading headlines like "Republicans kill Senate jobless aid measure" and "Republicans reject unemployment extension."

Think about that debt clock and ask yourself: are we a caring nation when we are passing along trillions and trillions of dollars of unsustainable debt to our children and grandchildren and beyond? I care very much about unemployed Idahoans and believe that extending unemployment benefits is necessary. And I believe the right way to do it is to assure that Congress pay for that extension.

Hard times require hard thinking. Why would anyone reject a plan to help those out of work, when they can do it without further harming the economic future of their children? Maybe the hard thinking is in the eye of the beholder.