What’s immoral, what’s unconstitutional?

moralIn a column which appeared in the Elmira Star-Gazette on Feb. 12, 2014, Dana Milbank asks “Who gets to decide on morality of public policy?”

Milbank quotes Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX): “I believe it is immoral for this country to have as a policy extending long-term unemployment (benefits) to people rather than us working on creation of jobs.”  Voter’s in NY-23 ought to be familiar with this opinion: Rep. Tom Reed opposes extended unemployment benefits.  Tom gives various reasons:

  • Benefits were meant to be temporary
  • Benefits are costly.
  • Benefits discourage independence.

Unlike Pete Sessions, I don’t believe that Tom has claimed that benefits are immoral.  That benefits were intended to be temporary doesn’t mean that they are no longer needed: unemployment statistics belie that.  That they are costly doesn’t mean that they aren’t worthwhile.  The claim that benefits discourage independence is self-serving nonsense: Americans prefer work to collecting unemployment when jobs are available. As proof of this I offer that most of us do work when we can find a job,  even at low-paying, dead end jobs which may be exhausting and dangerous.

Sessions’ opinion as stated above is based on a false dichotomy: there is no reason that we can’t pay extended unemployment benefits while working to create jobs. Milbank doesn’t make that point, but goes on to question whether denying help to people who need it is moral.

The claim that unemployment is immoral is a facile claim — Dana Milbank does a good job of refuting it.  A similar claim often made in political discourse is that something or other is unconstitutional.  Usually no court opinion is cited or reason is given.  When claims are made that a policy is immoral, unconstitutional or suffers some other drawback, the argument is stronger if a valid reason for that belief is given.

© William Hungerford – February 2014



About whungerford

* Contributor at NewNY23rd.com where we discuss the politics, economics, and events of the New New York 23rd Congressional District (Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Chemung, (Eastern) Ontario, Schuyler, Seneca, Steuben,Tioga, Tompkins, and Yates Counties) Please visit and comment on whatever strikes your fancy.
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22 Responses to What’s immoral, what’s unconstitutional?

  1. BOB McGILL says:

    Read it again !
    It seems you don’t understand what Sessions said . Do you see ” rather than ” ? NOW READ IT AGAIN, SLOWLY 🙂

    Milbank quotes Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX): “I believe it is immoral for this country to have as a policy extending long-term unemployment (benefits) to people rather than us working on creation of jobs.”

    • whungerford says:

      Yes, Bob. It is the “rather than” that is objectionable. We should do both. It’s true that an effective jobs program years ago might have made extended benefits unnecessary today, but that didn’t happen.

  2. solodm says:

    William, Sessions remark would be just as bad if he and his party actually worked to pass a jobs bill, but of course they have not, for fear the President will “get the credit”. The only immorality I see, is politicians making bad life and death decisions for people in terms of food, shelter, and healthcare, then blaming the ones they hurt with those policies.

    • whungerford says:

      Yes. Dana Milbank notes that unemployment today “would be substantially lower if Sessions and his colleagues hadn’t been so successful in their ‘work’ of cutting government spending when the recovery was fragile.”

      • BOB McGILL says:

        Raising the minimum wage when the recovery is so fragile is a good idea though. Forcing employers to provide health insurance at the same time was also BRILLIANT, so BRILLIANT they had to give an extention.

    • BOB McGILL says:

      ” politicians making bad life and death decisions for people ” ??????????????
      Give me a name of someone who has starved to death. Even the homeless guy who got burned in Ithaca a few weeks ago was taken to the hospital. There was a homeless vet that was living in a tent at the edge of town. During the winter I got concerned about him so I went in the woods to check on him. His tent was full of beer cans.

  3. pystew says:

    Don’t be fooled by the list of Job Bills the House passed in 2011. They are bills about jobs in name only. They think that having fewer regulations will create more jobs.

  4. BOB McGILL says:

    Mexico thought having fewer regulations would create jobs and look what happened. Hundreds of US companies moved there, DIDN’T THEY !!!!!!!

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