Here's a less-than-hardship tale, included in my book "Showdown: Confronting Bias, Lies, and the Special Interests That Divide America." On a lovely afternoon a few years and one lower back surgery ago, I ducked out of work, grabbed some tennis balls and went to a nearby public park. Nobody was around to hit with, so I used a backboard. A little later, I walked over to a young man firing balls at another backboard. "Want to hit?"
He was quite good and, it turned out, had played on his high-school tennis team. After working up a nice sweat, we sat and toweled down. He asked what I did for a living. At the time, I ran an employment search firm. "Great," he said, "I'm looking for a job. Can I leave you a resume?" "If you're looking for a job," I asked, "why are you out here hitting tennis balls?" "Oh, I don't intend to get serious," he said, "until my unemployment compensation runs out."
Larry Katz was the chief economist at the Labor Department during the Clinton administration. He argued that extending unemployment compensation benefits decreases the incentive to get out and look for a job. Workers, he insisted, are almost three times more successful in finding jobs when benefits are just about to run out.
Not that ABC asked or cares, but the money for extending unemployment benefits must come from somewhere. This means taxes, borrowing or printing, which creates inflation and is another kind of tax. Unemployment benefits come in part from employers who pay into state and federal funds. And like any other tax paid by an employer, it effectively reduces the amount of the employees' take-home pay.
None of the Bunning hit pieces, at least the ones that I saw, even mentioned that the extension violates pay-as-you-go. Remember that? Way, way back on Feb. 12, President Barack Obama signed "paygo" into law. It requires that new government spending be "paid for" with cuts, money taken from something else or new taxes. Congress, Obama said, must "pay for what it spends, just like everybody else."
In the end, the Senate ignored paygo -- as it did with the recent "jobs" bill -- and passed the extension. Eighteen other senators -- all of them Republicans -- found their spines and joined Bunning in voting no. He took a stand. He made his point about unfunded spending. Now the people must turn around the good ship Welfare State. Iceberg ahead.