Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid today finally overcame the conservative filibuster blocking aid to fiscally distressed states, securing the votes of the not-as-insane Republican senators from Maine, giving him a 61-vote supermajority to save and create 1 million jobs and avert fears of mass teacher layoffs.
Reid made painful concessions to secure the victory. He scrapped the notion of stimulative deficit spending, and offset all costs to appease deficit hysterics. To avoid adding to the deficit, in addition to closing tax loopholes for multinational corporations, the bill will end the Recovery Act's additional help to states to cover Medicaid costs in six months, and the extra funds for food stamps in 2014.
Those kinds of harsh measures to cap the stimulus are exactly what conservatives claimed was necessary in order to be fiscally responsible. Yet conservatives still did not vote for the bill.
There is no plausible argument for opposing a bill that does not increase spending on the grounds that it would increase spending.
But it's easy for conservatives to admit that opposition to the bill could only mean conservatives want our government to do less, want fewer public school teachers on the job, and want the jobless to fend for themselves in a savaged economy.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell lied repeatedly to justify the conservative position:
The trillion dollar stimulus bill was supposed to be timely, targeted and temporary. Yet here we are, a year and a half later, and they're already coming back for more ... The purpose of this bill is clear: it's to create a permanent need for future state bailouts, at a time when we can least afford it."
1. It was not a "trillion dollar stimulus bill." It was $787 billion. Much of that was tax cuts, not spending. It should have been bigger, but it was reduced to appease a small group of self-proclaimed "moderate" Republicans and Democrats.
2. The initial Recovery Act was not supposed to be "timely, targeted and temporary." The President's economic team, during the 2008 presidential transition, explicitly rejected that view as outdated and insufficient to the size of recession. Instead, they called for an approach to stimulus that was "speedy, substantial and sustained."
3. They are not "coming back for more." Today's bill is a deficit-neutral. In other words, it's not additional stimulus.
4. There's nothing "permanent" about this help for states. The bill extends but also ends, probably prematurely, additional help to states.
And it is the states that can least afford being cut off at this time.
As the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities reports today, "With tax revenue still declining as a result of the recession and budget reserves largely drained, the vast majority of states have made spending cuts that hurt families and reduce necessary services."
But federal aid to states has at least softened the blow, and today's bill would do the same: "In state after state, it is abundantly clear that spending and service cuts in health care, education, human services, public safety, and other areas would have been much deeper had the federal funds not been available ... These funds [in the Senate bill] would help replace the funds that states had counted on to balance their budgets and stave off an onslaught of new cuts in the first months of the new fiscal year."
You lie to cover up the truth. The truth is conservatives posture about the deficit to mask their hatred for public school teachers and out-of-work Americans.
It is unfortunate that Sen. Reid had to make these painful concessions in order to save the states. It's not the major investment we need to end the jobs crisis.
But we'll have more jobs by passing this bill than if we don't.
And we know for certain the conservative claim of fiscal responsibility is a total sham.
Originally posted at OurFuture.org