How Things Change.

One galling aspect of the tax deal framework proposed by the White House and Senate Republicans is that emergency unemployment insurance became a policy option that had to be bargained for, rather than a given during tough times:

In October 1983, with Republicans controlling the White House and the Senate and the national unemployment rate at 8.8 percent, extended benefits were reauthorized for 17 months. The benefits provided up to 24 weeks of help for workers who exhausted state aid.

... Those programs lapsed last week because Republicans and conservative Democrats have demanded that the roughly $60 billion cost of a reauthorization not be added to the deficit. Democratic leaders have insisted that extended unemployment not be "paid for" mainly because it usually isn't. That was certainly the case in 1983.

That's the sort of thing people cite when they talk about the "economic sabotage" theory of Republican politicking. Yet for all the history, it's not clear to me that there's anything that could be done to get the Republican Party of today to act like the Republican Party of 1983 and Ronald Reagan, and so a responsible president has to take what he can get.

-- Tim Fernholz

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