Keith Hennessey

When Presidents attack

This post is named after the Discovery Channel’s upcoming Shark Week.

President Obama spoke in the Rose Garden today about extending unemployment insurance benefits.

THE PRESIDENT:  But even as we work to jumpstart job growth in the private sector, even as we work to get businesses hiring again, we also have another responsibility:  to offer emergency assistance to people who desperately need it — to Americans who’ve been laid off in this recession.

In this context the word emergency has a technical meaning.  It means “you don’t have to pay for it with offsetting spending cuts or tax increases.”  I think it makes sense to extend unemployment insurance benefits now, but it is neither sudden nor unforeseen and therefore not an emergency.  The $35 B deficit increase of the unemployment insurance benefits in the Reid amendment should be offset with spending cuts starting two or more years from now.

THE PRESIDENT:  And I have to say, after years of championing policies that turned a record surplus into a massive deficit, the same people who didn’t have any problem spending hundreds of billions of dollars on tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans are now saying we shouldn’t offer relief to middle-class Americans like Jim or Leslie or Denise, who really need help.

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