The media spin on enhanced unemployment benefits has certainly changed, hasn't it?

The media spin on enhanced unemployment benefits has certainly changed, hasn't it?

I’m old enough to remember when the media was in a frenzy over Congress’ failure to pass an extension of the $600 dollar per week federal enhancement to state unemployment benefits. People were going to be put out into the streets because they wouldn’t be able to pay their rent or mortgage. Their cupboards would be as barren as Mother Hubbard’s. It would literally be the end of the world and it would all be the fault of Mitch McConnel and President Trump, who were too tight-fisted to renew the badly-needed relief assistance.

And then Donald Trump decided to skirt around the logjam by signing executive orders and memoranda restoring a majority of the payments. We can argue all we like about whether or not that was a good idea or even legal, but the desired effect was achieved. At least somebody was doing something, so all of those unemployed Americans could at least breathe a little easier, right? Well, not according to our favorite media mavens. NBC News was quick to pump out another scathing analysis saying that Trump was only doing this to boost his sagging ratings and the relief he was offering would be short-lived wind up hurting him even worse in public opinion polls.

President Donald Trump and his campaign have been racing to score a political boost from a series of weekend executive actions before the limited impact of the measures in addressing the economic fallout from the coronavirus comes into focus.

Some GOP strategists warned that any gains from the push, which began within minutes of Trump’s moves on Saturday, was likely to be short-lived — and could pose more political risk than potential reward, if voters don’t see a direct benefit following the president’s promise of relief.

“It’s too real and present in people’s lives to paper over with talking points or promises,” said Brendan Buck, a Republican communications strategist who served as a top adviser to former Speaker Paul Ryan. “If these executive orders don’t really solve the economic crisis, and I doubt they will, then it will only end up hurting him in the long run.”

NBC’s analysis goes on at length, criticizing each of Trump’s initiatives as either not going far enough, pushing problems down the road, or placing too much of a burden on the states. They quote several analysts who essentially say that this can all only end in tears.

The facts on the ground, however, don’t appear that way at all. Congress certainly did fail to reach a deal that would have provided unemployment relief. Nancy Pelosi was offered multiple options to achieve that goal and she turned down each and every one of them, choosing a “my way or the highway” approach. The President has now made the funds available to allow the states to continue distributing enhanced relief. This has left Nancy Pelosi looking like the Scrooge who was standing in the way of the unemployed receiving the enhanced benefits.

At the same time, Trump built an insurance policy into the plan. By including a requirement for states to provide $100 of the $400 weekly payments, blue state governors, in particular, will be facing something of a trap. If they wish to cry poverty and refuse to cooperate with the Bad Orange Man, their own residents on the unemployment line will be clearly informed that the reason they’re losing out on the extra payments is their own state government’s inaction, not the President’s. That doesn’t mean that the unemployed are going to be any happier, but at least they’ll have someone else to blame.

I tend to agree with the Wall Street Journal’s assessment of the situation, specifically when it comes to the executive overreach of power under the guise of crisis management. Short term relief (and, yes, some political leverage) could easily wind up being a tradeoff in terms of respecting constitutional limitations on the power of the presidency. But the people who are still dealing with being unemployed through no fault of their own because of executive diktats are probably going to have a hard time focusing on the long-term picture at this point. Short-term solutions may be the only option that calms the waters a bit for them. And the political value of being the one to deliver that sort of relief is hard to overstate.

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