Miss. madness, La. lunacy: Showboat move damages jobless: GOP targets jobless benefits

The Republicans are doing everything that the can to portray the Obama stimulus plan as the ultimate in irresponsible budget-busting maneuver, which must give them trouble keeping a straight face given their complicity in George W. Bush converting Clinton’s $2 trillion surplus into a $10 trillion deficit. 

Particularly laughable, in a tragic way, are the headline-grabbling decisions of Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal–both rumored to be looking at running for president in 2012– to reject some $100 million in extended unemployment benefits to the jobless residents of their long-suffering, impoverished states. South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, whose state ranks 47th in annual income at $31,013, is also considering this showboating, heartless move against the jobless. 

Barbour–whose voice always sounds like the old cartoon blowhard character "Foghorn Leghorn"– contended that once the federal UC extension ran out in three years, people would expect the state to pick up the burden–as if no further federal action would be forthcoming if unemployment continues at present levels (or higher) for the next three years. Misssippi’ ranked dead last (50th) in  family income in the US at just $28,845 in 2007.

Barbour  called the potential for Mississippi having to substitute funds from its employers for the extended federal benefits "a tax on job creation." That’s a rather unconvincing display of concern about the future given the plight of desperately poor Mississippians right now. Moreover, the unemployment compensation tax is based on employers’ record of layoffs, so it is much more accurately labeled a tax on "job elimination."

As for Lousiiana, it is still far from recovered after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina and the deplorable federal response while George W. Bush stay on vacation. Louisiana ranks 31st in family income at $34,756, and Jindal wants to turn down money that the unemployed need and would stimulate the state’s economy? Heckuva job, Bobby! 

It will be fascinating to watch if these Southern governors can get away with turning down federal funds (which is itself unusual, given the South’s success in grabbing a huge share of government contracts and federal assistance) without triggering a united revolt from jobless white and African-American citizens. Politics in both those states has tended to be highly reclaimed, with whites overwhelmingly voting for reactionary Republicans (admittedly, many Southern Democrats are barely better) at the expense of their most basic economic interests.

But if Jindal and Barbour persist with their attack upon the unemployed, things are so dire that the possibility of a new multi-racial populist movement may no longer be just idle pipe-dreaming by the Left.

UPDATE: Sen. Charles Schumer (D-New York), is doing something constructive instead of his customary role of safeguarding tax breaks for hedge-fund executivesWall Street: he has pointed out that the stimulus legislation requires governors to accept every element of the package, or lose it all.

Meanwhile, Gov. Jindal, in his prime-time debut in offering the Republican response to Obama’s address to both houses of Congress, was distinctly undwerwhelming in his perfromance. To a nation whose citiizens recognize that government must play an expanded role because of widesapred Wall Stret and corporate malfeasance, he offered the standard right-wing panaceas of "small government" and yet more tax breaks.

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