Friday, February 26, 2010


U.S. Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Ky., was a Hall of Fame baseball pitcher back in the day. As a human being, he belongs in the Hall of Shame. On Thursday, the House passed a bill that, in part, would extend unemployment benefits for laid-off workers. The Senate planned quick action on the bill, because the benefits are due to expire this weekend. But that plan was wrecked by one person: Bunning. The Kentucky senator, who has a reputation of being a pain in the behind, even to his Republican colleagues, unilaterally blocked action on the measure because he said the overall bill would add $10 billion to the budget deficit. This is the same guy who had no qualms about grabbing hundreds of millions – probably billions – of dollars in pork-barrel spending for his state over his long Senate career, deficit be damned. He's also the same guy who created the tax-shielded Jim Bunning Foundation, a “non-profit” organization whose main beneficiary has been none other than Jim Bunning. According to a 2008 report in the Lexington Herald-Leader, Bunning raked in $180,000 in "salary" over 12 years for a "job" at which he reportedly worked one hour a week. Nice gig if you can get it. At the same time, the foundation gave out a little more than $136,000 to real charities. And no one was going to argue with Bunning, because the three-member board that oversaw the foundation consisted of Bunning's wife, an old pal of his and a guy who used to work for him who is now a lobbyist whose clients received pork barrel cash from the senator. Sweet. The guy's a real humitarian, unless of course you're a poor, unemployed person who is scratching and clawing to pay the mortgage, keep food on the table and pay the heating bill this winter. He clearly doesn't a damn about those folks, despite the fact that his home state has an unemployment rate of 10.7 percent, one of the highest in the nation. But what does Bunning care about what those folks think? He's retiring and not facing re-election. I guess I'll just be left to hope that Bunning develops gangrene in a most uncomfortable part of his anatomy. Is that mean?

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm sure all the people who need those unemployment benefits will be grateful for Bunning's concern over debt and deficits. Infuriating...

--Brad Hundt

February 26, 2010 at 3:09 PM  
Blogger MJ said...

He's also blocking federal highway money, meaning thousands will be furloughed Monday. That makes a lot of sense with 9.7 percent unemployment, doesn't it? Where do we find these people?

February 26, 2010 at 4:37 PM  
Blogger PRIguy said...

Yep, the guy certainly is an ass. He should have stuck with baseball...much fewer people would have suffered.

February 26, 2010 at 5:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And that's what I hate about this system of government. One fool, no matter his party, can hold up things and broker some ridiculous deal to help out no one but himself. Same goes for the clown who held up the health reform bill until he cut a deal for his state.

February 26, 2010 at 6:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

how many times have the unemployment benefits already been extended?

i'm old school, what can you do for your country?

February 26, 2010 at 9:14 PM  
Blogger MJ said...

Unemployment benefits have been extended for some, but not all, in previous bills. That means if you lost your job after August, you will probably lose your benefits.

And I'm old school, too. It used to be that if you wanted to work in America, there was a decent job available. Those days are long gone.

February 27, 2010 at 11:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What qualifies as a "decent" job these days? I see Wendy's hiring, and the Destinta Cinemas. Likely they pay minimum wage or slightly above, but isn't some money better than none? I wonder how many people are unwilling to take a job that they feel is "beneath" them?

February 27, 2010 at 4:48 PM  
Blogger MJ said...

If you think grilling burgers and tearing ticket stubs for minimum wage qualifies as a decent job, then you are delusional. Unfortunately for many in my generation, those types of jobs are going to be the new American dream.

February 28, 2010 at 2:42 AM  
Blogger Brant said...

Exactly, Mike. You have many, many people who have lost really good jobs that allowed them to pay their mortgages, pay the bills and maybe have a little left over. Even if they worked two full-time jobs at Denny's or Wendy's or Destinta, they can't come close to making what they made before. And now they're falling behind on their bills, the mortgage, etc., and are on the brink of going under. And then Jim Bunning figuratively kicks them in the cojones. He's an ass.

February 28, 2010 at 8:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yea for those holding up the bill. It had no source of funding, and should not have been passed. The issue is no more complex that this basic fact.

All who are critical of Bunning are part of the same crowd who hoot and holler about passing debt to our children. The politicians in Washington have become so accustomed to spending, without a source of income to pay, that when something is held for this reason, the action is considered an outrage. The legitimacy of the bill is not what is in question, rather the source of funding to pay for it.

Go ahead, and just keeping passing legislation that is all on borrowed money. Just keep putting ourselves into further servitude to China, and other foreign entities who keep funding this stuff. How much control are the advocates of unfunded bills willing to give up?

The idea of sacrificing because of saving money has been long lost in the dust of rhetoric and past legislative practices. The words of our politicians on TV continue to be along the lines of "we have got to get spending under control." But, actions on votes speak a far different language.

February 28, 2010 at 3:10 PM  
Blogger MJ said...

Remember, Bunning and 38 other Republicans voted for Medicare Part D in 2003 with no dedicated revenue stream. Is Bunning holding up this legislation because it adds to the debt, or is he using the unemployed as a bargaining chip to continue slashing the estate tax?

According to E.J. Dionne of the Washington Post:

Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Ky., has put a hold on the extension bill, but one of the key reasons the measure is blocked is the effort of Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., to use it as a way of forcing a cut in the estate tax. Mr. Kyl is essentially leveraging the unemployed to get a deal on estate tax relief that would cost $138 billion over the next decade, according to estimates by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. The estate tax has already been cut sharply, so the reduction Mr. Kyl is pushing along with Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., would affect the estates of fewer than three out of every 1,000 people who die, according to the Tax Policy Center.

March 1, 2010 at 11:40 AM  
Blogger Brant said...

What? Republicans working for the rich, and ignoring what's good for the country as a whole? Noooooo.

March 1, 2010 at 11:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Re: Estate tax.

Yes, 2010 is now the time to die. For somebody who has led a pretty straight and narrow lifestyle, can somebody now give me some pointers on destructive behaviors? Is it drugs? Is it alcohol? Is it base jumping? Or, what? Surely, there must be somebody out there to give me some tips.

Remember, Dec 31 deadline for this evasive action is only a few months away. So, bring the suggestions forward now. It seems to be the best way to beat the government at its own stupid game.

By the way, good move to stop legislation from passing without some way to fund it. It makes no difference the issue. The principle of funding new spending is at stake.

March 1, 2010 at 2:36 PM  
Blogger Dawn Keller said...

I don't know what his motives are, but I think it's way past time that Washington starts prioritizing instead of doing everything by borrowing so much. If they want a jobs package for $15 billion and would need to borrow the $15 billion to do it, then they need to cut $15 billion from somewhere else so the money doesn't have to be borrowed.
If they don't start prioritizing, the path our government are on is fiscally unsustainable. The longer we wait to make the tough choices, the rougher it's going to be to put those choices into to action.

March 1, 2010 at 2:44 PM  
Blogger Dawn Keller said...

Whoops, I meant ... the path our government *is* on.
It's been one of those days ...

March 1, 2010 at 5:58 PM  
Blogger MJ said...

It's clear this dude is insane. Did you hear him complaining Friday night that he was missing the Kentucky basketball game? Well, boo-freaking-hoo.

And here's a wonderful quote from fellow nutcase, Sen. Jon Kyl, who said something very interesting...

"If anything, it could be argued that (unemployment compensation) is a disincentive for work, because people are being paid even though they're not working."

And I would argue that 100 U.S. senators get paid "even though they're not working" either.

March 2, 2010 at 1:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

OK, now that the matter is settled, look back at what was done.

First, the Senate was disrupted in the normal course of business. The incident created an avalanche of criticism from many sources, even including some Republicans. Sometimes the normal course of business needs a wake-up call.

Second, Sen Bunning has made a valid point. He has spoken his mind about a principle that few in the Senate seem to be willing to do. Of course, he has nothing to loose, as he is leaving in a few months. What would happen if other members of Congress were to freely speak their mind as well, rather than political rhetoric which usually accomplishes nothing.

Third, Sen Bunning has exposed the common practice in our Congress, passing unfunded bills. About four weeks ago, PAYGO was passed by both houses, and sent to the President for signature. He signed it with much hoopla about a new "fiscal discipline" in the Federal government. PAYGO is the name given to the practice of being certain of a funding source before a new spending bill is passed.

Barely one week after PAYGO was adopted, Sen Reid brought legislation to the floor that was passed, legislation that was spending, without funding. In other words, one week after much media blitz about new ways of business in Washington, he, and his colleagues, chose to ignore the PAYGO provisions, the very contract they agree to a week earlier.

Now, three weeks later, a new piece of legislation comes to the floor via Sen Reid, with the same problem, spending without funding. Sen Bunning finally had the courage to stand up and say enough is enough. When will this lunacy stop? Despite many calls from those in both chambers decrying the deficit spending, and the need to control spending, the practice just continues as if nobody cares. Finally, Sen Bunning cared, and acted. The outcome was being chastised from nearly all corners.

This says that PAYGO is considered a joke by those sitting in the Senate, and other politicians who spoke against Sen Bunning. They are clearly calling themselves out as hypocrites, and apparently, are proud of their status.

(continued in the next post)

March 3, 2010 at 10:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

(continued from the previous post)

Fourth, Sen Bunning, by his actions, was able to call out every one of his colleagues to profess their hypocrisy with a roll call vote. What was at stake here was the often use "unanimous consent." In the end, he managed to get a roll call vote. Now, every constituent can see who were the hypocrites, who was not. The measure is no longer subjective, rather objective. Either they voted contrary to PAYGO, or they did not.

Fifth, Sen Bunning fanned discussion in the public arena. With this unemployment extention, some people are now entitled to 99 weeks of benefits. This is nearly two years. During the public discourse, there was no shortage of those who study these matters who came to the front to provide statistics regarding patterns of job seekers on unemployment benefits. To be sure, there are those who are earnestly seeking work. But, the pattern says otherwise. The evidence is pretty clear that the real earnest job hunting happens four weeks before the benefits expire. With other provisions, such as housing subsidies and food stamps, a person could be making at least $30,000 per year under this program, for 99 weeks. And, apparently, in many cases, not bothering to look for work while sucking at the teat of the benefit package. The extension of benefits is contributing, in part, to the high unemployment rates. Personally, I know of a few individuals now out of work who are "working the system," and only waiting for exactly the right employment opportunity. They are passing "Now Hiring" signs, because the system is not incentivizing them to take available work, rather just the opposite.

While the initial writer of the blog detests Bunning, and other commenters above take Bunning to task, his actions were very useful to expose some much needed things. Those who give Bunning a hard time are often the same ones who decry the practices in Washington, the huge debt being accumulated, and the hypocrisy of those in Congress. Sen Bunning did well to expose much of this and get the public discourse engaged. Perhaps the voters will think back about what they have learned in this exercise. Sure, there are those who chastise Sen Bunning because they have something to loose. When any such controversial action happens, somebody is always disgruntled.

When will we applaud the path of principle, over against the path of temporal emotionalism?

March 3, 2010 at 10:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gimme a job with a three-day week and an August recess because DC is too hot. I promise to work just as hard as our congressmen.

March 3, 2010 at 10:35 AM  
Blogger Brant said...

Oh, come on. Bunning as a paragon of fiscal virtue? What a joke. He's every bit the hypocrite as anyone else in the Senate, if not more than some. For the record, Bill Clinton did a much better job of making sure things were paid for than George W. Bush did. It was Bush who devastated the federal treasury with his tax cuts for millionaires and stupid war in Iraq. What you didn't mention is that when Pay-Go passed in the Senate, it was supported by not a single Republican. Bunning voted against Pay-Go, then had the nerve to complain about fiscal responsibility. And there is a provision in Pay-Go to bypass the rule with 60 votes in the Senate. In the case of trying to keep food on people's tables, I think it was OK to do that in this care. There are much, much more wasteful expenditures in the federal budget. Care to look at the defense budget? And the idea that people are just largely lounging about and enjoying the "good life" of unemployment is asinine. Most unemployed people are desperately trying to find work so that they can feed their families and pay their mortgages. This just in: There aren't many jobs to be found, and experts say more than in any past recession, this time will be the worst for the length of time it might take people to get work. And it's even worse for those who are unskilled workers. And as for Bunning "exposing" the fiscal irresponsibility of Congress? What a laugh. EVERYBODY already knows that's the case. It's like me standing in the doorway of a bar and screaming, "People are drinking alcohol in there!" No kidding.

March 3, 2010 at 11:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let's think about this. A person making $30k per year on unemployment is getting roughly 60% of their best quarter while they were employed. So,they were employed at $48k per year prior to losing their job. I also believe that there is a cap on the amount of money you can collect on unemployment. We'll be generous and say that you can't collect more than 650 per week, which makes you annual intake just under 34k without federal tax being taken out. That is a 20K decrease in pay at the least. You really believe that a person is going to be satisfied taking a $20K+ pay cut? Do you really think they were living so far beneath their means that they can absorb that kind of hit to their income? I have a hard time buying that.

How exactly is this supposed evidence that shows when people look for jobs in earnest collected?

This smells like more cynical nonsense from the right, who seem to be more concerned with making it seem like everyone is leeching from the government rather wanting to help the people who truly need it. Most labor market analysts are speculating that the real unemployment numbers are close to 12 or 13 percent because a number of people have fallen through the cracks. Add in the number of people who are underemployed and it's far worse.

March 5, 2010 at 2:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Speaking of waste in the budget, why are we still investing in space travel and actually thinking about going back to the moon? I know the space program is responsible for advances in electronics and other areas, but when you can't feed the people on Earth, why spnd money on the moon?

March 5, 2010 at 3:50 PM  
Blogger Brant said...

I agree with you wholeheartedly, Anonymous. While there are some national defense issues related to the space program, I don't think going to the moon or sending missions to Mars are among them. And you point to the really central issue here. In these difficult times (really at any time), the federal government should be paying only for items that are essential for its citizens. To me, that includes health care. It also includes infrastructure (roads and bridges), national defense, food safety, etc. But it does NOT include the thousands of ridiculous projects that we now spend millions, or billions, of dollars on. And there's also great waste that can be trimmed from those programs that ARE considered essential. Governments at all levels should be pared down to the basics. If we did that, we could easily afford to provide quality health care to all our citizens.

March 5, 2010 at 3:59 PM  
Blogger MJ said...

Obama cut the moon program, prompting the Republicans to rip him for that decision. Is it me, or do conservatives only like to spend money when it isn't on American soil?

March 6, 2010 at 12:21 PM  
Blogger Ellipses said...

Is moon soil "american" soil?

March 11, 2010 at 10:57 AM  

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