Reihan’s defense of Bobby Jindal has some plausibility–it’s a good counterpoint to some very strong denunciations of Jindal. Reihan argues that Jindal is worried that the increased unemployment benefits would become permanent because of “loss aversion, and the difficulties involved in phasing out new spending,” therefore leading to higher taxes in the long-term.
These are potentially important concerns, worth keeping in mind on any issue where there is temporary spending. However, as we’re seeing with the Bush tax cuts, there’s a lot of potential for sunset clauses. The Bush tax cuts were never really meant to expire in 2010, but it looks like they’ll do just that. Given that the federal government is the source of the money for unemployment benefits, extending those benefits would require a conscious effort by Louisiana legislators. While I couldn’t get exact information, I take it Louisiana has some sort of balanced budget requirement, which would make the unemployment benefits even less likely to tie the state’s hands.
None of this is a guarantee, but it makes it hard to see what Jindal could be so worried about. It’s hard to see how anything could ever get done with the implicit level of paranoia about government spending.
Put another way, it seems as if Jindal is assuming the government will produce the worst possible result here. But it’s not as if he’s a passive participant in that process. He has a great amount of influence, and he’s settling for something that’s far from the best solution. Bear in mind that increased unemployment benefits are probably some of the absolute best measures for stimulating the economy. Even granting that Jindal’s worries have merit, there’s a substantial cost to his decision.