The first big issue out of the gate in Washington is the battle over unemployment benefits. The Senate got exactly 60 votes needed to proceed to debate the bill. That means six Republicans joined the Democrats to advance the bill: Ayotte (NH), Coats (IN), Collins (ME), Heller (NV), Murkowski (AK), Portman (OH).
This “emergency” bill would extend benefits for three months for the long-term unemployed. It would cost $6.4 billion. Where would that money come from? Well that's entirely the problem. We don't have the money to pay for things like this, unless we find it somewhere in the budget. That doesn't seem like an extreme concept, until liberals rev-up their PR campaign against the “heartless” Republicans. Earlier today, Harry Reid blocked Mitch McConnell's plan to offer an amendment that would have paid for jobless benefits by delaying ObamaCare's individual mandate.
There is no doubt that many Americans are struggling. The danger with continuing to support these temporary extensions is that eventually things in Washington become permanent. Before we know it, unemployment is just another entitlement program rather than a temporary support for those who fall on hard times. What happens if you permanently subsidize unemployment is that you get more of it, and I don't think anyone wants that. We want more Americans working, earning a living, paying taxes, spending their earnings, investing and saving. Wealth transfer programs to merely subsidize their existence doesn't add value to the economy or to their lives.
As Charles Krauthammer told Bret Baier on “Special Report” yesterday, “What we’re going to end up with is a European level of unemployment, chronic unemployment subsidized. And the fact is, if you subsidize apples, you get more apples; if you subsidize unemployment, you get more of it…It's not that people are lazy… if you have unemployment insurance, then you can make choices which would allow you to turn down a job that perhaps isn't exactly what you want.” Keep in mind that millions of Americans have completely dropped out of the labor force and stopped looking for work. If we provide an unending lifeline, who is to say that will ever change?
As the debate over unemployment benefits heated up, we learned that the Department of Labor is wasting billions of dollars on improper payments. Breitbart reports, “The U.S. Department of Labor's (DOL) annual financial report revealed that in 2013 it improperly paid an estimated $7.7 billion in taxpayer funds to Unemployment Insurance (UI) beneficiaries, including $7.3 billion worth of overpayments.” As you can imagine, this waste of money is not an isolated incident but occurs every year to some degree.
Barack Obama used this occasion to launch into his latest campaign on wealth inequality. He'd rather use the government to take money from the rich and redistribute it to others who did not earn it. Conservatives believe that wealth redistribution of this kind does little to foster economic growth and actually solve the problems Obama claims he wants to solve. This is why Conservatives must focus on growing the economy, providing these pro-growth solutions in a heartfelt way that connects with the American people. Tomorrow Marco Rubio is expected to give a speech along these lines that will likely be remarkably different from Obama's. Rubio will focus on restoring the American Dream by growing opportunities for all Americans, rather than punishing successful Americans at the expense of others.
Opportunities for jobs exist and could grow exponential if the government allows. This is why the next item of my Conservative Solutions Caucus is energy independence. You can read it here. While the benefits for our energy is one aspect, jobs is definitely a crucial aspect of this solution as well. There's a reason why North Dakota has an unemployment rate of just 2.6 percent. There's a reason why Midland,Texas has a low unemployment rate of 3.2 percent. It has nothing to do with government benefits and everything to do with job opportunities in energy, drilling, fracking, etc. But it's not just people working in these industries who are benefiting. These people need shelter, food and other amenities that require more businesses and therefore more workers. Hence, WalMart employees in these places earn $17 an hour!
The debate over unemployment benefits is tough because the real solutions take more time and steady patience than temporary fixes that feel good but do little to solve the problem.