| Last week Dianne Feinstein made some controversial remarks on unemployment benefits that made her sound like Marie Antoinette. In the wake of this post and others like it, Feinstein's office argued that the Huffington Post article misquoted her. As I reported on Thursday, it didn't sound like the accurate version really changed all that much.
That was the conclusion of the HuffPo reporter in question, Arthur Delaney. He emailed me late last week with an audio clip of the interview (which I'd embed if I had a place to host it, which I don't). Here's the transcript of the whole encounter, as sent to me by Delaney:
Feinstein discusses the way the country went from surplus to debt over the past 10 years. "It's going up and this is a big concern."
Reporter: "So concerning that it overshadows the need for unemployment benefits extensions?"
"Well, it does. And then there's part of unemployment extensions. We have 12.6 percent unemployment, almost two and a half million people out of work. We have 99 weeks of unemployment insurance now. The question comes, how long do you continue that before people just don't go back to work at all and are permanently stuck [inaudible]."
Reporter: Why can't you get this done?
"Well you can't get it done unless it isn't paid for. The answer is unemployment insurance has never been paid for. But unemployment insurance has never carried the heavy weight that it does right now, the cost that it does right now, so people are concerned. And there isn't a lot of documentation on this. Last night for the first time I had somebody from a company tell me they've offered jobs to individuals and they said well, I want to not come back to work until my unemployment insurance runs out. So we need to start looking at these things. And, we need to start paying for it."
Delaney told me he "reported the context and meaning accurately" and I agree. Feinstein is suggesting there is a problem with simply extending unemployment insurance indefinitely, and implying that at some point we're going to have to stop.
Her anecdote, which certainly doesn't describe the experience or sentiment of the overwhelming majority of the unemployed, absolutely indicates she worries that extended unemployment benefits act as a disincentive to working, which is a core right-wing talking point.
Of course, Feinstein voted the right way this time - to extend benefits - but her remarks suggest she might not always do so. And that's worrying.
The way to deal with unemployment benefits is to return to a policy that emphasizes full employment. People want to work. But the US Senate is doing everything it can do to destroy jobs and decrease wages, through its unwillingness to support new stimulus and job creation programs.
That's the real problem here. Senator Feinstein needs to work to convince her fellow Democrats, including Ben Nelson, that the way to deal with the deficit and unemployment benefits is to support the creation of new jobs, and resist the call of Hooverism.
Unfortunately, Feinstein appears to be trending in the wrong direction.