“Remarkably, Congress went on a July 4th vacation unable to muster the votes necessary to extend unemployment insurance benefits,” Sheketoff writes. “I’ll let Rep. Greg Walden of Oregon’s 2nd District explain why extending unemployment benefits is vital when a sustained economic recovery has yet to take hold: ‘Unemployment insurance provides targeted and effective economic stimulus. These critical benefits increase consumer spending in the hardest-hit areas and sustain and strengthen economic recovery.’”
But Walden made that statement back in 2002, and apparently his views have changed in the eight years since. A bill extending unemployment benefits passed the House just before the July 4 recess, with 270 congresscritters voting yes (including Oregon’s four Democratic members) to 153 voting no, including Walden. (The bill unfortunately stalled in the Senate thanks to the threat of a filibuster.)
Walden’s “nay” came even though his district is one of the hardest-hit by the recession, with a jobless rate of 11.5% in May, almost two points higher than the national rate. “In June 2010, 2,994 Oregonians in Walden’s 2nd District filed new claims for regular unemployment insurance benefits,” Sheketoff comments. “That’s unsurprisingly 19% of all new claims in Oregon.”
“As noted by the old Rep. Walden, shutting off unemployment benefits before the economy is firmly on its feet harms the unemployed and the businesses in communities where they live,” Sheketoff continues, quoting a 2003 statement by Walden: “While there are many signs that the president’s policies and the economic stimulus bills passed by Congress are beginning to turn the economy around, it’s essential that we maintain a strong safety net for dislocated workers until new jobs are created.”
What’s different now? Well, in 2003 there was a Republican president and Republicans controlled Congress, whereas now we have a Democratic president and Democrats hold majorities in both houses.
If one wanted to be a cynic one might suspect that Walden and his fellow Republicans want the economy to remain in the crapper until the November congressional elections to make Democrats look bad. But I don’t want to be a cynic, so I won’t suspect that.