Goodness knows I’ve grappled with exactly how I’ve hoped the fiscal-cliff finagling would finally finish up, but the overriding constant for me has always been the ultimate triviality of the entirely petty discussion — and this just so perfectly, painfully exhibits precisely why.

For Rep. Danny K. Davis, Illinois Democrat, the “fiscal cliff” fight came down to one thing: the unemployment checks the government will still be able to send to thousands of his constituents.

“When I go to church on Sunday, I know that I will see people with the assurance that pretty soon an unemployment check is in the mail,” he said.

Mr. Davis said he’d come to the floor Tuesday after speaking with two constituents who’d called his office begging him to vote against the cliff deal, which extended tax cuts for most Americans, allowed rates to rise for the wealthiest and included $330 billion in other new spending such as the expanded unemployment benefits for the long-term jobless.

Emphasizing the maintenance of unemployment benefits as one of the most critical aspects of this whole issue? How on earth did America get here?

Unemployment benefits are not, never have been, and never will be a real or even a temporary solution to any of our problems — because the preemptive condition of their existence is heady unemployment. Despite the back-patting over the wildly marginal and deceptive ‘progress’ in our national unemployment rate we’re meant to have seen in the past few months, this flirting-with-at-least-eight-percent has been around for a disturbingly long while. Just continuing to redistribute money we unequivocally do not have is not only going to add to our stupendously daunting debt problem, but it also helps to simply perpetuate a vicious cycle of joblessness. The prevailing attitude that taking more and more money out of the private sector — at the inevitable opportunity cost of business growth and job creation — is somehow a good idea, is one of the systemic conditions putting a damper on our economic growth.

Robust economic growth is the only real way that we can eventually climb out of this mess, but the Obama administration and the Democrats can’t seem to find it in their hearts to let it happen. Republicans don’t want to merely snatch away unemployment benefits, food stamps, and etcetera; they want to engender a healthy economy in which people neither need nor even want them, because the opportunities of the alternatives are vastly better.

Why and how are anybody’s constituents, anywhere, supposed to be placated by the fact that a taxpayer-funded check is on the way? How about — oh, I don’t know — a productive, private-sector job instead?