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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 ® 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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