With the help of the Maine Republicans, the Senate has voted to extend $26 billion in aid to states for Medicaid and teachers. The bill nominally is deficit neutral, but all 38 non-Maine Republicans present voted against it. In his speech on the Senate floor, Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell worried that the bill would pave the way for eternal teacher bailouts. His Democratic counterpart said "The bill keeps hundreds of thousands of teachers, firefighters, policemen and other civil employees from being fired or laid off." Who's right?
Well, both. This is appropriate emergency spending and it will, without question, save public jobs by sealing a band aid over states' short-term shortfall. But McConnell's concern is not totally invalid. When the recession's effect on state budgets begins to mitigate, lawmakers will have to decide when to withhold the pain medication and cut off Medicaid assistance, or education relief, or food stamps, or unemployment insurance. In the short term, I'm happy to see this small stimulus pass the Senate, even if I have the unhappy suspicion it might be the last one.