Who’s Playing Politics?

It seems like, on every point of disagreement between Democrats and Republicans, each side accuses the other of “playing politics.”  (Of course, to this Midwesterner it seems like every decision by every elected and appointed official in Washington, D.C. involves “playing politics.”  Isn’t that why they are called “politicians”?)

So it is with the latest dispute, about extending unemployment benefits.  Today President Obama suggested that Senate Republicans were playing politics by opposing a bill to extend the benefits because it doesn’t have offsetting cuts to pay for the extended benefits.  Republicans say that they don’t want to contribute even more to the rapidly growing federal deficit. Democrats say they want to help the long-term unemployed.

This is one of those issues where the inability of politicians to reach agree is a bit maddening.  Democrats say they are concerned about the deficit; that is why the President has appointed a commission to recommend deficit reduction measures.  Republicans say they are willing to extend unemployment benefits if offsetting spending cuts are made.  Why can’t the two sides just agree on the spending cuts that they both say need to be made, and thereby agree to the extended benefits that they both say should be provided?  It is as if politicians play a gigantic game of chicken with the American people.

In the meantime, we will wait forever to get an answer to this question — is there a point at which we should stop paying people extended unemployment benefits?  If two years is not a logical cutoff point, what is?

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