NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


March 3, 2010

Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.) has singlehandedly blocked his Senate colleagues from extending aid to the unemployed.  His "hold" on a $10 billion stopgap spending bill has started a wave of furloughs among federal workers and threatens doctors with a deep cut in their payments under Medicare.  

Critics think cutting off unemployment checks over a budget squabble is both inhumane and politically inept.  But Bunning also raises a valid point about the hypocrisy of congressional Democrats, who are already reneging on a promise to pay for new spending rather than add it to the deficit, says Investor's Business Daily (IBD).  Last month, they passed a so-called "pay-as-you-go" (PAYGO for short) bill requiring revenues or cuts to offset the cost of any new discretionary spending. 

  • Freeing up revenue elsewhere in the budget to pay for the $10 billion in stopgap spending would amount to a cut of 0.26 percent in anticipated total outlays of $3.71 trillion.
  • It hasn't taken long for that rule to be broken; as columnist Debra J. Saunders points out, the $15 billion jobs bill passed by the Senate last week violated PAYGO (ditto for the bill that Bunning has blocked).
  • He argues that the Senate should tap some of the unspent money from last year's stimulus bill to fund the new legislation.
  • Majority leader Harry Reid has rejected that plan, even though -- according to the Obama Administration's Website -- more than $500 billion in stimulus money is yet to be spent. 

The Democrats' argument for not following PAYGO comes down to strategic procrastination, says IBD.  They've left it to the last minute to keep vital programs alive and workers on the job, so there's no time to work out a proper PAYGO solution.  Stall long enough and the fiscal conservatives will face a choice between starving the jobless and letting the red ink rise a bit more. 

Faced with those options, only a soon-to-retire senator in a mad-as-hell mood would go to the mat for budget sobriety.  Call him crazy, but Bunning is all too sane in his grasp of America's deficit problem, says IBD. 

Source: Editorial, "Bunning's Best Pitch," Investor's Business Daily, March 3, 2010.


Browse more articles on Tax and Spending Issues