Objecting to the lack of adherence to the Senate’s pay-as-you-go rules, U.S. Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.) recently succeeded in delaying legislation that would extend unemployment benefits and Congressional Omnibus Reconciliation Act health care coverage, more commonly known as COBRA, for 1.2 million Americans. His nearly week-long, one-man filibuster had the added benefit of furloughing 2,000 federal transportation workers. Congratulations, Mr. Bunning, no Republican has ever reduced the size of government and hurt more working class people in such a short amount of time. This must get Bunning some sort of conservative speed record — like winning the Republican Party Olympic gold medal. Despite the fact that the bill was eventually passed, and Bunning was forced to end his procedural objections, this type of overzealous fiscal conservatism is exactly what endangers working Americans and furthers their disconnect with Washington.

While a completely legitimate debate could be had over the economics of deficit spending and its validity today, what concerns me more are the contradictions of Bunning’s actions. While stating that his “objections” — a Senate procedural tactic he abused relentlessly — were fueled by a lack of revenue to pay for the unemployment aid, Bunning actually caused more money to be spent. According to Judy Conti, an advocate for the National Employment Law Project, Bunning just passed extra administrative costs to state governments, which will have to shut down and then resume their benefit programs. “Once the program is retroactively reauthorized, the federal government is going to send the same amount of money, but his own state government is going to have to spend even more money,” she said in a Feb. 26 Huffington Post article.

On an ethical level, Bunning politicized a conversation on deficit reduction on the backs of the unemployed. Kentuckians should be even more angered by all of this, as the unemployment rate in the state is 10.7 percent, according to the Kentucky Office of Employment and Training. Their senator, who should be working for them, passed on more costs to his own state government all the while ignoring the needs and desperation of Kentucky’s out-of-work citizens.

But an even larger problem is that Bunning’s actions embody a dangerous type of conservatism that exists today — one that is out of touch and doesn’t care about the American people. While American people were drowning and in need of government assistance, Bunning complained about missing a basketball game during the debate. “I have missed the Kentucky-South Carolina game that started at 9:00, and it’s the only redeeming chance we had to beat South Carolina since they’re the only team that has beat Kentucky this year,” he said, according to the Huffington Post article. Although the Wall Street Journal knew all this information, it had the egregious audacity to declare in a Mar. 3 editorial that this was Bunning’s “finest hour,” as if denying assistance and aid to those in need is a part of the moral high ground.

What Bunning has made me realize is that if you are unemployed and struggling financially, this extreme Tea Party-esque conservatism does not care about you. If you are unable to afford decent, adequate health care, this conservatism does not care about you. If you are a recently laid off federal transportation worker, this conservatism does not care about you. Bunning and the type of conservatism he represents would rather grind federal and state government operations to a standstill than have a sensible debate about deficit reduction. This comes at the expense of not Bunning and his precious little basketball game but those who depend on government assistance to put food on the table.

I do believe that a reasonable conversation must be held about the deficit and that the pay-as-you-go rules should not just be a façade of fiscal policy. But Bunning’s actions represent one of the most appallingly blatant examples of politics over people. While some may tout this ideological crusade as Bunning’s “finest hour,” it needs to be realized that fanatical fiscal demagoguery like this only harms the American working class that he claims to represent — not to mention the country as a whole.

Will Butler is an LSA freshman.

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