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Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Who Cares About the Unemployed? We've Got an Election to Win!

Depression-era sign - Jobless men keep going. We can't take care of our own.
As congress returns from the Fourth of July recess, they'll try once again to extended unemployment benefits for 2.14 million citizens whose benefits have run out. The problem here is Republican grandstanding -- with the unfortunate Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson joining in -- on the deficit. But the amount of money the extension of these benefits would add to the deficit is so miniscule and the stimulative effect of unemployment benefits are so great that it's hard to make any sense of the GOP's argument here. It's like saying, "Yeah, we could buy this new tractor and increase productivity on the farm, but it's a penny more than I'm willing to pay, so we're just going to have to lose all that profit." It makes no sense at all.

Part of the Republican defense is that extending unemployment benefits extends the amount of time people remain unemployed. But this is a crazy argument that assumes all situations are equal and that there are plenty of jobs out there waiting to be filled. There aren't. Economist Paul Krugman explains:

Do unemployment benefits reduce the incentive to seek work? Yes: workers receiving unemployment benefits aren’t quite as desperate as workers without benefits, and are likely to be slightly more choosy about accepting new jobs. The operative word here is "slightly": recent economic research suggests that the effect of unemployment benefits on worker behavior is much weaker than was previously believed. Still, it's a real effect when the economy is doing well.






But it's an effect that is completely irrelevant to our current situation. When the economy is booming, and lack of sufficient willing workers is limiting growth, generous unemployment benefits may keep employment lower than it would have been otherwise. But as you may have noticed, right now the economy isn't booming -- again, there are five unemployed workers for every job opening. Cutting off benefits to the unemployed will make them even more desperate for work -- but they can't take jobs that aren't there.


Further, Krugman argues that unemployment benefits help the economy for obvious reasons; if more people have money, more people spend money, and if fewer people have money, fewer people spend money. And no one is as guaranteed to spend money as the person who needs it. Fewer people spending money results in decreased demand, which results in even fewer jobs. This facet of the Republican argument has everything bass-ackward.

The problem here is that the Republican Party has lost their mind. Remember, on the day that Barack Obama was sworn in as the 44th President of the United States, pundits were openly wondering if the GOP was going the way of the Whigs. Things had seldom seemed darker for them. Then came the Town Hall mobs, which grew into the Tea Party. Combined with growing impatience over economic recovery, the GOP -- so recently written off as dying -- was suddenly in a sort of ascendancy. They've grabbed onto this small but vocal group like a drowning man grabs onto a floating log. And, as a result, they've become as incredibly stupid as their new base.

A new Gallup poll shows that only among teabaggers and Republicans is the size of the federal debt a huge concern. Only in those two demographic groups does a majority say debt is an "extremely serious threat" to America's future. The poll has a massive flaw in that it doesn't include the economy as a possible threat, so the numbers will be a little weird. But otherwise, it's telling.

Another major concern of tea partiers is "the size and power of federal government" (49%), with 80% believing that "government is doing too much that should be left to individuals and businesses." This would be a lot easier to take if they didn't also hypocritically agree that "Government should promote traditional values" (57%). We all know what "traditional values" means by now, so we can translate these results as, "Big government extending unemployment benefits and guaranteeing healthcare -- boo for big gummint! Big government making sure that men only sleep with women, women only sleep with men, and some women remain pregnant against their will -- yay for big gummint!" The group who argue that the government that governs best governs least would be a lot easier to take seriously if most of them actually meant it.

But to go back to unemployment, these inconsistent tea party geniuses are the ones blocking debate. And make no mistake, the majority is one the sane side -- just not Republicans. Nor their teabagger brain.

To my knowledge, no poll has asked what I consider to be a central question; how many tea partiers are unemployed? From their positions on the issues, I'd say that very, very few are. And those few are stupid beyond words. The entire movement is idiocy run amok, driven by selfishness and ignorance and fear. This is today's Republican Party; terrified of everything, unwilling to sacrifice, and ignorant of both facts and the hypocrisy of their own positions. It's become an unhinged, drooling fool of a party, driven not by its brightest minds, but by the loudest voices in its head.

And this monstrous idiot of a party, this collection of so-called "rugged individualists" who think with one collective hive-mind, has decided to set economic policy for the nation. They are, not surprisingly, doing it wrong. But that doesn't matter. The only thing that matters is winning in November. Who cares if it helps the nation? Reelection is all that matters and the tea party nuts are key to that. The party that was once declared dead has risen from the grave and now, zombie-like, shambles off to do the bidding of its own teabagger zombie-plague.

-Wisco


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