Eric Cantor vs the Safety Net

Torture for me, but not for thee.

Dave Weigel reports on Rep Eric Cantor’s surprisingly candid determination to take the ax to the basic elements of the American social safety net. He quotes this document from Cantor’s office:

The bill includes $79 Billion for safety net programs (more than is actually supposedly dedicated to job creation), including:

— Extension of unemployment benefits through June of 2010;
— Extension of COBRA subsidies through June of 2010;
— Extension of Increased Medicaid Matching Rates (FMAP) from December 31, 2010 to June 30, 2011; and
— Extension of the refundable child tax credit to those with income less than $3,000 (under the original stimulus, families must have at least $3,000 in income to qualify).

Dave remarks that “Those are all pretty popular programs, and ones that voters would notice if they suddenly vanished.” It’s also probably worth trying to remind the potentially demoralized that worse things can happen in the world than disappointment at not-as-progressive-as-I’d-like legislation being signed into law.

Two points on the merits.

One, with unemployment at 10 percent it’s not like we’re talking about handouts to people who are too lazy and shiftless to get a job. Millions of Americans were happily working away, when deteriorating global financial conditions they had no control over and nothing to do with caused them to be laid off. Making sure that they’re still able to get health care and provide shelter for their families and such strikes me as basic fairness.

That said, it’s also wrong to draw a dichotomy between safety net programs and job creation programs under these circumstances. It’s not like poor people and the unemployed are just hoarding this money. They’re using it to buy stuff, bolstering labor market conditions.