That question is the official response from the White House, proffered by Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, with regard to the political theater unfolding today on the floor of the U.S. Senate surrounding the so-called “Jobs” bill, a $10 billion spending sweepstakes
The “irrational” one referred to by Gibbs is Jim Bunning, the Hall of Fame baseball pitcher turned longtime Republican senator from Kentucky. Bunning, who is not planning on running for reelection, is being so “irrational” as to ask that the Senate, which just recently passed a “pay-as-you-go” rule, be required to pay for the bill by cutting spending elsewhere, rather than by passing the bill and paying for it through additional deficit spending.
“If we can’t find $10 billion to pay for something we all support,” Bunning said yesterday, “we will never pay for anything on the floor of this U.S. Senate.”
Bunning is getting absolutely slammed for taking his stand, and for objecting to the “unanimous consent” measure that would move the bill along quicker. Groups have called for his removal from the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame. The Week magazine has called his actions “heartless.” MSNBC has taken to calling him “Mr. Gridlock.” Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley has dismissed his filibuster as a “coordinated Republican attack on the U.S. working family.”
And, frankly, it’s not tremendously difficult to see where Bunning’s critics are coming from. The Wall Street Journal points out today that the delay has already had an adverse effect, “with the expiration of benefits to 100,000 people and the suspension of 41 transportation projects across the country,” both of which would have been extended and funded by the bill. And a report from a south Florida CBS affiliate notes that, come March 13, if the filibuster isn’t brought to a close and the bill isn’t passed, nearly 50,000 Florida residents will lose benefits, a statewide number topped only by 55,000 in New York. Furthermore, according to the CBS report, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis has said that 500,000 newly unemployed would be ineligible for COBRA benefits if the legislation is not passed.
But Bunning is right. And the dire consequences of not passing this bill only reinforces just how correct he is.
Instead of making Jim Bunning the villain on this one, as so many people on both sides of the aisle and inside and outside the Beltway have done, people should look at the real villain here: the United States Senate and–predictably, I know–the Democratic Party leadership.
Instead of looking at everything which depends upon this legislation and vilifying Jim Bunning, we should be looking at the hundreds of thousands of people who could stand to lose benefits and ask Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid why he refuses to find $10 billion in spending to cut elsewhere. Perhaps he could start with the $8 billion reserved for his Mag-Lev train project in last year’s so-called “stimulus” bill.
As a regular, everyday American husband and father who stresses over making mortgage payment each and every month–and sometimes even makes it!–I understand the realities of the relationship between what you’ve got and what you’re able to spend. In the past, when we have made spending decisions as a family, we understand that any additional spending must be offset by a cut in spending elsewhere.
For example, Joanna and I belong to a fitness club. It costs $49.98 per month for the two of us. When we made the decision last year that we were going to try to get ourselves back into shape prior to our move this summer to warmer weather and beaches, we knew that on our super-tight budget we simply could not add that amount without reducing it elsewhere. So, we adjusted our mobile phone plan, cut our cable television package down to a minimum, and ended up offsetting the $49.98 increase by saving $75 per month, for an overall decrease in our budget of $24.98.
That’s the Schreiber household equivalent of PAYGO. And now that we reached our budgetary break-even limit by opening up a storage area for use in advance of our move and cutting what little discretionary spending we had elsewhere in order to pay for it, there simply isn’t any more wiggle room for any additional projects. Even if we wanted to take on an additional expense–say, a Netflix membership at $9 per month–I’m not certain we could find anything to offset it with.
Thankfully, that’s not the case with our bloated federal government. Frankly, there’s always some sort of pork-barrel spending to offset any other spending deemed as absolutely essential as this $10 billion jobs bill. Joanna and I don’t have a $3.4 million turtle tunnel in our backyard that we could cut in order to fund that Netflix membership, but the federal government does. We’re not sending more than $4 billion to groups like ACORN, but the federal government is. And we know better than to spend likely twice that on research into the hoax that is man-made global warming, but our friends on Capitol Hill certainly don’t.
Friends and neighbors, our federal government gets to play with money from our pockets and wallets and piggy banks as though it were plastic chips at some Casino Night poker game at the neighborhood nursing home. If they’re going to adopt rules like PAYGO–which, if you remember, I said were ineffective to begin with in part because of lack of enforcement–then it is most certainly not “irrational” to ask that they uphold them and do what millions and millions of American families are doing right now, mine included: paying as they go.
Bunning’s blockade isn’t some sort of Republican Party curveball, intended to maliciously attack American working families. It is a desperate attempt by a well-meaning lawmaker to make the much-needed point to his colleagues before he steps out of public service for good that sacrifice and prioritizing when it comes to matters of revenue and spending and the balance between needs and wants does not end at kitchen tables in the districts and communities back home.
That the White House believes Bunning’s Last Stand to be “irrational,” that Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid decry it as political gamesmanship getting in the way of the way Washington works — well, that should tell you all you need to know about this White House, this Democratic Party leadership, and the way Washington works as a whole.