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.”


  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.


  3. 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.


  4. 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.”


  5. 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.


  6. BOB McGILL says:

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


  7. 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.


  8. whungerford says:

    Yes, Bob, but companies moving to Mexico didn’t create jobs — mostly, the jobs moved. Some companies seek to avoid regulation, but the main reason for moving to Mexico is to pay low wages.


  9. 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.


  10. BOB McGILL says:

    But in your mind that’s OK. But tell me, why are all the manufacturing companies moving to other states ? LOWER WAGES, LESS TAXES AND FEWER REGULATIONS !!!
    YOU WANT MORE REGULATIONS, HIGHER WAGES, HIGHER TAXES. I suppose that when you go shopping you look for the HIGHEST prices you can find.


  11. whungerford says:

    First, all manufacturing companies are not moving to other states.

    We need adequate and effective regulation and living wages. That needn’t mean higher taxes. But for the same revenue, if businesses pay less, individual taxpayers must pay more.


  12. BOB McGILL says:

    freebeacon.com/three-gun-companies-lea…‎CachedThe Washington Free Be…Loading…Nov 5, 2013 – Gun Companies Leave New York Following SAFE Act … “The more people find out about SAFE the less they like it and the angrier they get,” …


  13. BOB McGILL says:

    nypost.com/2011/05/…/why-new-yorks-future-is-fleein…‎CachedNew York PostLoading…May 24, 2011 – Moving out: More than a third of New Yorkers under 30 plan to move away … People go where the jobs are, so when a state repels businesses, …


  14. BOB McGILL says:

    http://www.nytimes.com/…/finance-jobs-leave-wall-str…‎SimilarThe New York TimesLoading…Jul 1, 2012 – New York’s biggest investment houses are shifting jobs out of the area and … From right, Garry Douyon and his partners in a biofuels company: …


  15. BOB McGILL says:

    http://www.bloomberg.com/…/why-are-th…Bloomberg L.P.Loading…Nov 7, 2013
    Travis H. Brown, author of “How Money Walks,” discusses why the super rich are moving out of New York with …


  16. BOB McGILL says:

    http://www.whec.com/article/stories/s3196897.shtml‎CachedOct 21, 2013 – From 2000 to 2010, more than $45 billion in salaries moved out of New York. The next highest is California, but its total was only $29 billion.


  17. BOB McGILL says:

    nypost.com/2013/…/ny-may-lose-100k-good-jobs-by-1…‎CachedNew York PostLoading…Sep 21, 2013 – New York state will lose hundreds of thousands of well-paid back-office, finance, tech and manufacturing jobs over the next 48 months, …


  18. BOB McGILL says:

    SimilarUS and NYS Private Employment Trends. Index: 2000 = 100. NY. US. EMPIRE CENTER …. Since 1990, upstate New York has lost 227,000 manufacturing jobs


  19. BOB McGILL says:

    SimilarJul 11, 2012 – New York was among the biggest losers of manufacturing jobs. … a loss of 96,100 manufacturing positions covering the five-year period from


  20. BOB McGILL says:

    SimilarCrainsNewYork.com’s Job-Loss Meter has been updated to show the number of jobs lost in New York … 04/16/13, Priority Production Services, Manhattan, 102


  21. BOB McGILL says:

    SimilarJun 18, 2012 – The study of manufacturing data found that some states have lost much more than others. In New York, manufacturing jobs are down by …


  22. BOB McGILL says:

    Monday Jun 18, 2012 11:24 AM Tweet
    Follow Open Channel on Twitter and Facebook.
    By Bill Dedman, Investigative Reporter, NBC News———A new study of manufacturing employment by the Investigative Reporting Workshop at American University shows that factory jobs declined by nearly half since the peak in 1979, when there were 21 million manufacturing workers.
    But the researchers also found that manufacturing employment grew in some states, all of them west of the Mississippi River. And many communities, such as York, Pa., still see manufacturing as integral to their survival.


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