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August 10th, 2010  |  Matt Pavich

No one disputes that the United States is currently suffering through an economic crisis, the likes of which has not been seen since the Great Depression. And yet, despite this nearly unparalleled period of economic devastation, a dispiriting number of groups appear intent on inaction. This is not a case of Nero fiddling while Rome burns, but rather a case of Nero sleeping while the empire ignites.

The first example is the recent dustup over unemployment benefits. Originally intended to be part of an overall jobs bill, a second economic stimulus package if you will, the recent passage of an unemployment benefit extension was the only piece that could pierce a filibuster led by Senate Republicans and supported by Democrat Ben Nelson (D-NE). While the parties bickered over the content of the bill, 2.3 million Americans, many of whom lost their jobs due to the economic downturn, went without needed financial support, largely because certain politicians prioritized deficit reduction over assistance to workers in need. To be sure, the rising deficits threaten the long-term prosperity of the country, but 2.3 million people who can’t spend anything threatens the immediate future of the fragile economic recovery. A measure that could have protected 800,000 jobs was sidelined by a battle over how to pay. Or, more likely, by an argument over political posturing.

On Friday, August 6th, the news came that a bill intended to assist small businesses using loans and tax credits remained stuck in the Senate, as that august body takes its annual August vacation, and won’t likely be addressed again until September. The bill would create a $30 billion lending fund, run through the US Treasury, which would provide cheap credit to the community banks that do most of the lending to small businesses. The bill would also give $12 billion in tax relief, spread across 10 years, to small businesses and would provide $1.5 billion in grants to the states for their state lending programs. This kind of bill is hugely important, as it is usually the community banks that provide the funds that allow small businesses to hire. The Obama administration contends that small businesses create two out of three private sector jobs. Despite the obvious importance of such a bill, inaction was once again the name of the game.

And, finally, the National Right to Work Foundation has asked US Attorney General Eric Holder to launch an investigation into whether NLRB Member Craig Becker’s participation in a decision involving a local of his former employer, the SEIU International, violated the President’s Ethics Pledge. This request comes less than a month after the NLRB’s Inspector General determined that Becker’s involvement did no such thing. The NRWH has every right to monitor Becker’s activities on the Board, given his close ties to unions, but this move smacks of overkill. It is humbly suggested here that the NRWH drop its pursuit of Becker, allow him to do his job, and continue to act as a much-needed watchdog on overzealous unions and their advocates.