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Home Publications Blogs Beat the Press Maybe Members of Congress Want to Cut Unemployment Benefits to Increase Unemployment

Maybe Members of Congress Want to Cut Unemployment Benefits to Increase Unemployment

Tuesday, 13 July 2010 05:09

The Post yet again tells us that members of Congress are political philosophers, telling readers that: "Congress's inaction [in approving an extension of unemployment benefits] has been accompanied by a growing sentiment among lawmakers that long-term unemployment benefits create a disincentive for the jobless to find work."

How does the Post know what sentiments members of Congress have? Furthermore is there any reason to believe that their sentiments explain their votes on important issues?

Members of Congress get elected and re-elected by getting the support of powerful interest groups, not on their abilities as political philosophers. While the opponents of extending unemployment benefits may believe that they are bad policy, this is likely less relevant to the their votes than the political considerations behind this vote.

At the moment, the Republicans appear to have adopted a strategy of blocking anything that President Obama tries to do, with the idea that a bad economy will be good for them on Election Day. While the Post may not want to assert in a news story that this is the explanation for their opposition to extending unemployment benefits, it is certainly inappropriate to provide an alternative explanation for which it has zero evidence.

Comments (11)Add Comment
written by izzatzo, July 13, 2010 6:22
In a Glenn Beck moment of recognition that something just didn't feel right with extended unemployment benefits, reporters went the extra mile and confirmed the natural law theory of rational self interest choice in economics.

They had three choices. Report it as a disincentive to work based on what politicians said, report it as a disincentive to work based on the natural laws of economics, or report it as a political tactic to actually increase unemployment to win the elections.

Since the last option not only contradicted the first two, but also sold less newspapers and threatened their own employment status, including increased incentives to accept unemployment benefits, they reported what politicians said and backed it up with the usual second independent source of irrefutable natural laws in economics.
interesting how facts are ignored to fit agenda
written by Bill Turner, July 13, 2010 7:41
Typical of so many who wish the world conformed to their image, izzatzo implies that there is substantial reason for believing that unemployment benefits creates great disincentive. Interestingly, NPR's All Things Considered interviewed Kenneth Rogoff, a fiscal conservative who advised the McCain campaign, on this very issue yesterday. He made it clear that unemployment benefits are only a small disincentive.

Anyone who has had a reasonably well paying job then fell onto unemployment receiving a fraction of their previous income understands that unemployment benefits are hardly a disincentive. When you are threatened with loss of home, etc., you have plenty of motivation to find work. It is hard to find work when the jobs are few and far between.

What disincentive there is amounts to putting a bottom on the price workers are willing to be paid for their services. This is a complex matter and better left for deeper discussion elsewhere.

It seems like people with a certain mindset are bent on demonstrating the veracity Karl Marx's proposition that through a series of economic downturns, wealth moves upwards. All those people who will be forced to sell their homes at firestorm rates because they are no longer able to receive unemployment benefits will be selling them to the winners in the current economic downturn. Stupid conservatives are so afraid of Socialism and yet are driving the conditions for ultimate social upheaval.

Oh,and, yes, Republicans would increase the country's agony for political gain. This is politics. I doubt that Democrats would behave much more altruistically if the roles were reversed (but maybe so, since they seem more willing to help the middle and lower classes, but only slightly more).

Republicans for unemployment
written by Vicky Else, July 13, 2010 8:30
The Post isn't making this up. They're quoting Sharron Angle and John Kyl (on the floor of the Senate, no less). Other republicans have been saying that unemployment benefits create unemployment by providing a disincentive to work--it's the tea party/libertarian thing rearing its ugly head. Not a philosophy, exactly, more like a religion.
written by petridish, July 13, 2010 11:38
Perhaps the unemployed would act more desperate about taking any available job if they were not continually assaulted by made-up "green shoots" indicating a "robust" economic recovery.
Finally..the ANSWER!
written by sgt_doom, July 13, 2010 12:30
So, it was really unemployment insurance all along that was the actual cause for unemployment.

Geez, all this time I thought it was labor arbitrage (i.e., offshoring American jobs), and all those private equity firms' leveraged buyouts, and...oh yeah, all that debt peddling by those debt-financed billionaires (and some debt-financed trillionaires as well) who then shifted their private debt onto the backs of the public to be monetized.

Geez, who would have thunk it? So, if they just do away with UI, all these jobs will miraculously reappear?

Oh, wow, doods, we've got to get that stuff those congressional whores are smoking.....
written by Richard, July 13, 2010 10:55
I think the Post is right, there has been a growing sentiment, it has grown from a few way out in right field Republicans, to nearly all of them. But, ya know, there may be some unemployed Repubicans after the next election, we'll see what incentives they have to find work.
Perhaps a better solution than extending UI, would be to create a lot of government jobs, so we at least get some Then if and when the economy picks back up, we can phase the jobs out.

I've been unemployed a few times in my life, and it's not fun, and the UI benefits, surely don't equate to a decent job, they barely put food on the table and gas in the car.

Perhaps Congressmen should start living on the same wages. What makes them more privileged?
Unemployment Benefits IN-centivise.
written by Doug, July 14, 2010 1:58
I've heard (correct me if I'm wrong) that the disincentive effect of UE benefits accounts for about 1 to 1.5% of the unemployment rate.
So in order to punish those few, conservatives want to also punish the 8% of the unemployed who are INCENTIVISED by unemployment benefits, along with their families and landlords.

Another great idea by conservative "thinkers."
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About Beat the Press

Dean Baker is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C. He is the author of several books, his latest being The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive. Read more about Dean.