| Note: Dianne Feinstein's communications director emailed me on Thursday morning to say the Senator was misquoted, and that the WaPo and HuffPo would be issuing a correction. I'll add more info as I get it. Original post follows.
The US Senate, continuing its tradition of destroying the economy and preferring to fret about deficits instead of pushing for economic recovery, today voted down cloture for the jobs bill, which looks increasingly unlikely to pass. Both of California's Senators, Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, did the right thing and voted for cloture.
But Dianne Feinstein is starting to wobble. Even though her state is suffering from 12.3% unemployment - a record rate, likely the highest since the Great Depression - she apparently thinks there are plenty of jobs out there going unfilled because people are too lazy to work, preferring to enjoy their unemployment benefits.
Yes, she really said this:
"We have 99 weeks of unemployment insurance," Feinstein said. "The question comes, how long do you continue before people just don't want to go back to work at all?"
This is perhaps the classic statement from one of California's most elitist and out of touch politicians. It's as if she has absolutely no clue at all about the economic conditions out here.
As most people know - whether you are unemployed or know someone who is unemployed - the fact of the matter is that there are no jobs available. People aren't on long-term unemployment benefits because they want to be, they're on those benefits because they cannot find a new job.
With fiscal austerity long dominant in Sacramento and now becoming dominant in Washington D.C., there's less money in the economy to support job expansion, and less ability for government to pick up the slack through their own hiring, which they should be doing in a severe recession like this.
One of the major political and economic problems this country will face in this decade is the long-term unemployment crisis. The best solution is indeed to get people back to work. But that won't happen by punishing people for being unemployed in the worst job market since the Depression. Instead the Senate has to get off its ass and finally embrace stimulus and make job creation its #1 priority. Unfortunately, they appear to be listening to the deficit scolds, who do not have our best interests in mind.
If Feinstein holds to this view, it should be the final straw for California Democrats, who should begin organizing a serious primary challenge to her in 2012. Such an unrealistic and insensitive attitude is not appropriate in a US Senator from any state, much less one from California.