Unemployment brouhaha: Why don’t Democrats support asset test?

Lisa Heck, wife of Rep. Joe Heck, R-Nev., collected unemployment benefits for a time last year, the website Politico reported Friday. Democrat politicians pounced on the story, charging Lisa Heck should not have applied for benefits.

Lisa Heck was a nurse who worked for Specialized Medical Operations, a medical training and consulting firm where her husband served as president. But Rep. Heck dissolved the company after being elected to the U.S. House in 2010, after concluding it presented a conflict because most of its business came through government contracts. Five people lost their jobs.

Rep. Heck said through a statement that his wife was no different from many Americans who’ve lost work. "After losing her job, Lisa Heck applied for and began receiving unemployment while she searched for work," Rep. Heck’s office said. "As a mother, the wife of an active Army Reservist, and a congressional spouse, Mrs. Heck felt that it was in the best interest of the family to end her job search and remain at home. At that time, she stopped receiving unemployment."

Democrats argued Lisa Heck should not have collected benefits because she was laid off by her own husband after he received a healthy raise to $174,000 a year.

It is the silly season, of course, but this is much ado about not much.

In the first place, the attacks on the congressman’s spouse aren’t very "progressive." Lisa Heck did nothing wrong. She isn’t running for office. The choices made here were hers. Liberals quite correctly insist that husbands and wives are free to have separate careers, and that the career choices of one should not be held against the other – unless the wife in question is married to a GOP congressman, apparently.

More importantly, when the new farm bill was being debated by Congress this month, Republicans proposed an asset test for those receiving food stamps. Someone with no job and no income but a net worth in the seven figures doesn’t need a taxpayer grocery subsidy, Republicans argued.

But Democrats defeated the food stamp asset test, indicating they’re all for allowing a multimillion-dollar lottery winner collect food stamps. So how can they then imply that Lisa Heck did something wrong in drawing her unemployment insurance benefits because her husband earns $174,000 a year and has that much again in some retirement account?

Those picking at straws to find something with which to attack a congressman who has spent time patching up our boys in Iraq and Afghanistan – and hardly gotten rich in the process – should make up their minds.

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