During the shutdown debate, we talked about “cuts” and “policy riders” as if they were two different things. But as a reader points out, they’re not:

To call some of the provisions in this deal “budgetary” and others “policy riders” is a distinction without a difference. The budget is policy and policy is the budget. To take an example from my field of expertise: The deal likely reduces or even eliminates funding for One-Stop career centers. These are places that host many social service agencies and have the primary mission of connecting the unemployed to the workforce. (Total elimination appeared in HR 1, and a massive cut in the Senate amendment to HR 1.) This is a huge policy decision -- we have determined that we are not going to assist the unemployed at career centers. Where was the debate on this, not to mention the debates on the dozens of other effects of the deal?

Here’s the effect of the decision regarding career centers: In a struggling economy especially, people who have been laid off come to a career center to get help searching for jobs. That may not sound like much of a service to the educated classes, but let me tell you, people come into our career center every day and they don’t have an e-mail address or a computer at home. The major employers are all moving to online-only application systems. So you have to get an e-mail address, find jobs online, register with an employer’s application system, and troubleshoot problems along the way. Password rules are an absolute mystery to the digitally illiterate. In some states, like mine, posting a resume online is a condition of receiving unemployment benefits. Many people who are jobless for the first time in 20 years don’t know how to upload a resume and can’t receive unemployment until they do.

Every day, my staff and volunteers — we use volunteers because we don’t have enough funding to hire adequate staff — watch desperate people, sitting at computers completely baffled, asking, “Can’t I just apply for a job?”

You can blame the Republicans for lacking empathy or policy sense, but they had a transparent process. HR 1 was published long ago, and anybody with a little policy experience — a reporter, say — could have detailed the likely results. But we never had the real debate — just a bunch of horse-race reporting between two sides that wanted to cut different amounts. And the end result will be substantially different policy in more areas than I can even know about now.

He’s right, of course. Note that the highest-profile “policy rider” was a cut in funding to Planned Parenthood.