The Sour Politics of Epithet and Government by Tantrum Brews Chaos

10/25/2010 03:14 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

"Hunger makes the old grandmother trot" was a 19th century slogan attempting to justify England's harsh poor laws. Recent Republican and Blue Dog opposition to extending unemployment insurance benefits to the long-term jobless bespeaks the same sour spirit . And it appears to animate the proposal to raise Social Security retirement age which achieve its "savings" by reducing the benefits of everyone retiring after the change.

Both appear to share the same jaundiced view that ameliorating unavoidable financial trouble only enables malingerers. Coupled with attempts to sabotage spending programs to avoid teacher and other public employee layoffs, the lessons are clear: dollars count for more than people and people must be goaded even when their self interest already impels them to help themselves if they could.

The old unreconstructed Scrooge lives on in such policies. So does the short-sightedness of Hebert Hoover and Andrew Mellon that gave precedence to cutting the federal budget over giving people a boost in their time of need. And, very importantly, it denies purchasing power to those who have lost income; in turn that deprives business of billions in sales income made possible by cash benefits, thereby also destroying millions of jobs.

We are in the grip of the politics of epithet and teeter on the verge of government by tantrum. Much damage and suffering will accompany the ensuing chaos.