Valentine: Bunning did the right thing

Friday, March 5, 2010

Why is it that people in Congress who try to do the right thing are vilified? Take Sen. Jim Bunning, for example. The Kentucky Republican has been raked over the coals because he was the lone voice in the Senate to have the gall to insist that the Democrats follow their own rule.

It all started when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid wanted to extend unemployment benefits up to 99 weeks. Think about that for a moment. That's almost two years. Bunning wasn't necessarily against the extension, he just wanted to make sure it was paid for. The Senate's own "pay-go" rule says that anything they vote on that cost money has to be paid for. This measure costs $10 billion. That's $10 billion we don't have. Bunning pointed out that it would add to the deficit and if we wanted to pay for extending unemployment benefits it should come from the unspent portion of the stimulus package. But, no. Democrats screamed "foul" and painted Bunning as a cold-hearted conservative who didn't care one bit about the unemployed.

The fact is Bunning was not firm enough. Giving someone unemployment benefits for 99 weeks is utterly ridiculous, I don't care who's paying for it. And, yes, this is coming from someone who's been unemployed -- several times. I am in radio, after all.

Standard unemployment benefits generally run 26 weeks. That's roughly 6 months or a little more. The longest I've ever been unemployed is two months and that includes the recession of the early '80s when times were arguably worse than they are now, despite the dire news coming from your television. Unemployment in the latter part of 1982 was 10.8 percent. Interest rates had been at double digits. Inflation was at double digits. News reporters today love to mimic politicians who say this is the worst recession since the Great Depression but, apparently, they either weren't alive coming off the Carter disaster or they were asleep.

Being unemployed is no fun. In the times I've been there I never even applied for unemployment benefits. Not that there's anything wrong with taking them. I just know me. I know if I have any sort of crutch I'm less likely to get motivated enough to find a new job.

What gripes me through all of this is the bullheadedness at which some who are unemployed refuse to move. You go where the work is. I've had to do it and it turned out to be the best thing I could've ever done. Well, what about people with families? They can't just up and move. It's a very simple proposition. The breadwinner finds work wherever there's work. Period. If that means finding a job in a town hundreds, perhaps thousands, of miles away then he or she does it. They commute back and forth on the weekends or whenever they can afford to come home and once they're settled they move the rest of the family. Is it pleasant? Of course, not. But it is reality.

What's not realistic is asking businesses that are already strapped to pay for the extension of benefits for almost two years. I've already heard from businesses who had to lay people off during the last extension. Each time we extend unemployment benefits we run the risk of jeopardizing other jobs. Does that make good sense?

What makes this recession so different from others is our sudden expectation that the government is responsible for bailing everyone out. You do what you have to do but what you don't do is send the bill to our children and grandchildren.