The unsavory task of explaining why America apparently can't afford to help the unemployed but can afford tax cuts for the rich fell to Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) on Sunday.
"Republicans, me included, have supported numerous extensions of unemployment benefits and we're anxious to do so again," the Indiana Republican told interviewer Chris Wallace on "Fox News Sunday." "The deficit this year is a trillion dollars for the second year in a row ... The American people have had it with runaway federal spending, deficits and debt, and they want to see men and women in Washington, D.C. make the hard choices."
Polls released last week showed that despite anxiety about spending, registered voters actually favor helping the unemployed even if it adds to the deficit.
Nevertheless, extended unemployment benefits for the long-term jobless lapsed at the beginning of June because Republicans in the Senate, joined by Nebraska Democrat Ben Nelson, insisted that the $33 billion cost of reauthorizing the benefits not be added to the deficit (though some deficit hawks actually don't consider stiffing the jobless a smart way to reduce the deficit to begin with). Fox's Wallace said he understood the Republicans' argument that the unemployment benefits be "paid for" -- but why not also "pay for" a reauthorization of the tax cuts, which will cost $678 billion?
"The reality is that as you study -- when President Kennedy cut marginal tax rates, when Ronald Reagan cut marginal tax rates, when President Bush imposed those tax cuts, they actually generated economic growth, they expand the economy, they expand tax revenue," Pence said. "The point is we've got to get this economy moving again and we can't go back to the tax-and-spend policies of the Democrats or the tax-cut-and-spend policies of the prior administration."
Since extended benefits lapsed at the beginning of June, some 2.5 million people prematurely stopped receiving checks. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has called for another vote to reauthorize the benefits on Tuesday, after the replacement for the late Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) has been sworn in. He will presumably give Democrats the 60th vote they need to break the GOP's filibuster. People who missed checks will be paid retroactively if the bill is approved.
Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) explained on Wallace's show last week that "you do need to offset the cost of increased spending, and that's what Republicans object to. But you should never have to offset cost of a deliberate decision to reduce tax rates on Americans."