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GOP: Unemployment Insurance Bad for Economy

Comment: Yearning for the pre-New Deal days, GOP spokesmen have been characterizing unemployment insurance as being bad for the economy, because it discourages people from seeking work!

“Political Animal: GOP Still Doesn’t Like Unemployed” by Steve Benen; Washington Monthly; 3/8/2010.

It’s astounding, but in the midst of an unemployment crisis, prominent Republicans continue to castigate those struggling to find jobs.

Yesterday, for example, disgraced former Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) argued that unemployment benefits are a bad idea, because, as he sees it, they discourage people from entering the work force.

“You know,” DeLay said, “there is an argument to be made that these extensions of these unemployment benefits keeps people from going and finding jobs.” When CNN’s Candy Crowley described his argument as “a hard sell” to the public, DeLay replied, “It’s the truth.”

Crowley followed up, asking, “People are unemployed because they want to be?” DeLay again said, “Well, it is the truth.”

When it comes to Republicans condemning the unemployed, there seems to be something of a trend of late. Two weeks ago, Rep. Dean Heller (R) of Nevada expressed concern that the government is “creating hobos” by extending unemployment benefits. Around the same time, Rep. Steve King, a right-wing Republican from Iowa, explained his opposition to extended unemployment benefits: “We shouldn’t turn the ‘safety net’ into a hammock.”

Last week, Senate Minority Jon Kyl of Arizona, the Senate’s #2 Republican, argued that unemployment benefits dissuade people from job-hunting “because people are being paid even though they’re not working.” And this, of course, coincided with Sen. Jim Bunning’s (R-Ky.) crusade against extending benefits.

As a matter of economics, the GOP argument is absurd: “[W]hen the economy is deeply depressed, extending unemployment benefits not only helps those in need, it also reduces unemployment. That’s because the economy’s problem right now is lack of sufficient demand, and cash-strapped unemployed workers are likely to spend their benefits. In fact, the Congressional Budget Office says that aid to the unemployed is one of the most effective forms of economic stimulus, as measured by jobs created per dollar of outlay.”

As a matter of conscience, having prominent Republicans chastise those struggling to find work during an unemployment crisis is just callous and cruel.

And as a matter of politics, who, exactly, is going to be impressed by Republicans attacking the unemployed as lazy? Since when is “screw struggling families, let’s worry about corporate tax cuts and the estate tax” an effective election-year message during difficult economic times?

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