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Chait writes: "The most obvious thing, of course, is a general lack of concern for the fate of the unemployed - or, at least, a casual assumption that the unemployed themselves must be to blame for their plight. But even a more generous reading of the Republican position, taking its most serious defenses at face value, reveals an intellectual hollowness."

Sen. Rand Paul. (photo: Jeff Malet/maletphoto.com)
Sen. Rand Paul. (photo: Jeff Malet/maletphoto.com)


Why Republicans Have No Ideas About Mass Unemployment

By Jonathan Chait, New York Magazine

02 January 14

 

ast Saturday, the extension of unemployment benefits originally passed at the outset of the economic crisis expired. The position of Democrats in Washington, backed by a growing mountain of economic research, is that macroeconomic and humanitarian considerations alike both argue for an extension of unemployment benefits.

The position of Republicans in Washington is rather strange - less a moral or economic argument than an expression of indifference. "These have been extraordinary extensions, and the Republican position all along has been 'we need to go back to normal here at some point,'" argues Representative Tom Cole. "[W]hat we did was never intended to be permanent. It was intended to be a very temporary solution to a very temporary crisis," echoes Representative Rob Woodall. Of course nobody intended for the crisis of mass unemployment to last five years. Nobody intended for the crisis to happen at all. It is simply weird to argue that, since the problem has gone on longer than intended, the response to the problem must end as well. The fire trucks don't shut off the hoses simply because the fire should have been put out by now.

Yet the weirdness, far from being random, reveals something deeper at work. The most obvious thing, of course, is a general lack of concern for the fate of the unemployed - or, at least, a casual assumption that the unemployed themselves must be to blame for their plight. But even a more generous reading of the Republican position, taking its most serious defenses at face value, reveals an intellectual hollowness. Half a decade into the economic crisis, the Republican Party has no serious ideas about the Great Recession.

One of the few Republicans to directly defend his party's refusal to extend unemployment benefits is Rand Paul. Unfortunately, as is so often the case, Paul's ideas about unemployment insurance are cracked. Paul has repeatedly cited studies that show that employers discriminate against job candidates who have been out of work a long time. Paul simply assumes that people are staying unemployed so they can continue collecting unemployment benefits. But the economics paper Paul cites, according to the economist who wrote it, suggests the opposite of his conclusion.

Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal editorial page gamely defends the Republican stance:

The Administration claims that every $1 of jobless benefits creates $1.80 in economic growth, based on the notorious "multiplier" in Keynesian economic models. This is the theory that you can increase employment by paying more people not to work, and that you can take money out of the private economy by taxes or borrowing without cost.

The argument here is that there's a "cost" to "taking money out of the economy" to pay for unemployment benefits. What is that cost? Well, in normal conditions, higher deficit spending will cause interest rates to rise. But these are not normal conditions. Interests rates are as low as they can be. The zero bound is the policy dilemma of the moment. The Journal editorial page has been warning for years that rising interest rates are on their way, or already occurring. The utter failure of these predictions has not even slightly dented its jaunty confidence.

It is true that some research has shown that cutting off unemployment benefits can force the unemployed to search more aggressively (or desperately) for work - say, an out-of-work machinist might take a job for lower wages at the 7-11. But those studies all take place in the context of a normal economic cycle, not the mass unemployment we see today. The conditions of mass unemployment from the Great Recession dictate that cutting off benefits from the unemployed simply immiserates them because there are no jobs.

Republicans in North Carolina proactively demonstrated their party's stance by cutting off benefits to the unemployed before it was tried elsewhere in the nation. The result was dismal: The state's labor force is shrinking. Rather than getting jobs, the unemployed have simply stopped looking for them, because they don't exist.

Sharp conservative ideas about the recession can be found on the margins of the political debate. (See, for instance, Michael Strain in the Weekly Standard.) It's certainly possible to reconcile conservative doctrine about the size of government with specific plans to address mass unemployment. But Republicans in Congress have not bothered to adopt any of these alternative proposals. Nor have conservatives in general displayed much of an interest in the topic of unemployment benefits. There's an asymmetry of partisan interest on the subject somewhat akin to Benghazi, which obsesses the right and bores the left. Republican thought on mass unemployment is a restaurant with tiny portions that taste terrible.

This is not to say that the GOP lacks any ideas about economic policy. Both parties have fairly well-defined ideas about the general role of taxes, spending, and regulation. The difference is that the Democratic Party also has a policy agenda that is specifically related to the special conditions of high unemployment and low interest rates. The Republicans are still merely asserting that their normal agenda applies just as well now as ever. The unique, dire conditions of the Great Recession shouldn't be expected to undo all the party's program, or to alter its general long-term ideas. (Democrats have not, and should not, given up their preference for universal health insurance, reduced greenhouse gas emissions, and so on, nor should Republicans have to abandon their preference for the opposite.) What they lack is any legislative response to the economic crisis. They just want to get back to normal, and since normality has not arrived, they'd just as soon pretend it has.


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+28 # RMDC 2014-01-02 09:33
The republican party was created in the 1850s by big business to be their voice in government at all levels. It has always been the party of big money, banks, and corporations. Even to ask why republicans have no ideas about unemployment or about poverty is sort of ridiculous. It is like asking why Zebras have striped or elephants have trunks.

In US politics, money has a vote. It was this way even when the constitution was written to favor the rich slave owning planters from the south. Then the republicans came along to represent the bankers and factory owners from the north.

Money runs US politics. It always has. The unemployed simply do not count because they cannot buy a position in government.

It is pointless to cite Rand Paul or the Wall Street Journal. They will say anything that comes to them at the moment to reject unemployment insurance. That's what they stand for.

The solution to this is a long term one. Money has to be taken out of the control of government at all levels. Governments must represent and serve people, not money, corporations, wealth, or banks. The US is so far away from this "normal" politics that it will take a century to rid itself from the scourge of the republican party. (PS - the Democrats are not much better, but a little better. FDR was pretty good on this).
 
 
+8 # reiverpacific 2014-01-02 11:07
[W]hat we did was never intended to be permanent. It was intended to be a very temporary solution to a very temporary crisis," (quote).
Like the now permanent Dimwits tax cuts.
There's a fuckin' poor set of priorities that Obama's Democrats capitulated on to screw middle and poor further, including the "New Poor", an extensive by-product of the Great Recession which according to these out of touch econo-pundits, "ended in 2009" but as most of us who live in the real world know all too well, is still with us.
I find it hard to believe that most people don't WANT to work, as the ignoramus Right like to slanderously trumpet.
Sadly, many former professionals and skilled workers who used to have a decent middle class sustainable income/benefits are now faced with the very limited options of working for the "new" slave-owner robber barons like Walmart, Mickey D's, Wendy's, Sears and so on: OR hoping that their unemployment benefits, which THEY and their former employers paid into for the length of their employed time and which most probably provide a BETTER level of income than these unchallenging and meanly paid, benefit-free alternatives, last while they are looking for appropriate work.
I don't see anything wrong with having a reasonable level of residual income during this search.
I like the Italian model which provides an optional lump sum on unemployment with the condition that the recipient starts their own business. But that's way too creative for the US, innit!
 
 
-28 # lnason@umassd.edu 2014-01-02 11:20
Denmark curtailed unemployment insurance from a limit of four years to a limit of two years and, lo and behold, people found jobs in two years and one month instead of in four years and one month.

Even if people are under-employed, which I expect would often be the case, it is a way to get people back to producing goods and services that serve the needs of others. The benefits for the national economy as well as the benefits that accrue to the newly restored workers and their families is enormous.

Paying people to do nothing (except for the indifferently pursued job search) is not healthy for anyone.

Lee Nason
New Bedford, Massachusetts
 
 
+24 # dkonstruction 2014-01-02 11:42
Quoting lnason@umassd.edu:

Paying people to do nothing (except for the indifferently pursued job search) is not healthy for anyone.

Lee Nason
New Bedford, Massachusetts


I agree that paying people to do nothing is not healthy for anyone. I spent 10 months on unemployment in 2009-1010 after being laid off from my non-profit housing organization after the housing bubble burst. I "survived" on $1600 a month (the maximum unemployment benefit in NYC) by going through every penny of savings I had (and I was one of the "lucky" ones who had any saving to begin with). To believe that most people (yes, there are always a few) who prefer "surviving" on paltry unemployment benefits rather than working for a living wage is absurd.

The "solution" is not an endless extension of starvation wage unemployment benefits but rather a meaningful public works program that pay a living wage to put people back to work rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure, teaching our kids in public schools, retrofitting every public building (to start with) in this country to make them energy efficient. etc. There's lots of work that needs to be done in this country and if the private sector won't hire people at living wages than the federal gov't should (and can).
 
 
+5 # reiverpacific 2014-01-02 21:53
Quoting lnason@umassd.edu:
Denmark curtailed unemployment insurance from a limit of four years to a limit of two years and, lo and behold, people found jobs in two years and one month instead of in four years and one month.

Even if people are under-employed, which I expect would often be the case, it is a way to get people back to producing goods and services that serve the needs of others. The benefits for the national economy as well as the benefits that accrue to the newly restored workers and their families is enormous.

Paying people to do nothing (except for the indifferently pursued job search) is not healthy for anyone.

Lee Nason
New Bedford, Massachusetts


And you source is??
BTW, Denmark is regularly voted as the "Happiest nation" on earth, so they must be doing something right.
So what exactly was y'r point again, o wise one from the groves of academé.
Try working at a fast food sweatshop prep' depot or kitchen for minimum wage or less, no benefits and get back to us.
I really wish you'd get out a bit more into the real world -it's not pretty, extremely complex and defies snap judgements like yours!
 
 
+3 # curmudgeon 2014-01-02 22:13
Quoting lnason@umassd.edu:
Denmark curtailed unemployment insurance from a limit of four years to a limit of two years and, lo and behold, people found jobs in two years and one month instead of in four years and one month.

Lee Nason
New Bedford, Massachusetts


Slight misleading statement.....S ome Danes emigrated ..most stayed..reason:

Available jobs...real jobs requiring skilled persons
 
 
-12 # Jingze 2014-01-02 11:22
Most Americans, by far, are doing exceedingly well and see no reason to change anything. Most are prospering greatly through their favored policies of perpetual warfare, the lucrative sales of killing machines, and the destruction of the planet for their benefit. Their only fear, other than that someone will notice they have become the most vicious peoples on Earth, is that someone might take away their beach blankets and bingo cards. All is well, according to NPR. Streep must by lying when she claims a child dies of hunger every five seconds.
 
 
+15 # dkonstruction 2014-01-02 11:52
Quoting gsemsel:
Most Americans, by far, are doing exceedingly well and see no reason to change anything.


Really? "Most Americans"? In NYC (according to a study done by the now former Bloomberg administration) 50% of NYC residents are either poor or near poor. 50%. If you calculate poverty statistics by looking at whether anyone has fallen below the poverty line at any time in the last 3-6 months (as opposed to just a momentary snapshot in time) then this 50% applies to the country as a whole. So, to suggest that most Americans "prosper" from our national security state warfare budget and policies is simply wrong. These policies hurt most Americans though I would agree that most don't understand how or why.

So, "most" Americans are doing "exceedingly well" if you want to compare us to lets say Greece (let alone a more underdeveloped country) but is that the yardstick by which we really want to measure whether we as a country are "doing exceedingly well?" I, for one, sure don't.
 
 
0 # reiverpacific 2014-01-03 21:34
Quoting gsemsel:
Most Americans, by far, are doing exceedingly well and see no reason to change anything. Most are prospering greatly through their favored policies of perpetual warfare, the lucrative sales of killing machines, and the destruction of the planet for their benefit. Their only fear, other than that someone will notice they have become the most vicious peoples on Earth, is that someone might take away their beach blankets and bingo cards. All is well, according to NPR. Streep must by lying when she claims a child dies of hunger every five seconds.


I dunno why you got all the red thumbs
I for one respect y'r deep irony (I hope) and give you big Green-'un!
 
 
+8 # dostoevsky 2014-01-02 11:31
Unemployment is a big issue. Why is TPP ("NAFTA on steroids")being "fast-tracked" in secret by the government? Does that make a lot of sense? Bye bye more manufacturing jobs! Is making things and selling them important or is the intent to have everyone work for the government?
 
 
+16 # backwards_cinderella 2014-01-02 11:53
if you haven't lived on unemployment, then you have NO idea how devastating it is to fall behind on your bills, your rent, your car payments, insurance, EVERYTHING. then when you do go back to work, it's just catch-up time & you never really recover ... because when fall comes & there's another lay-off, you're back on unemployment & it's the same thing again. i lived like this for years with a union pipe-fitter ... he would be laid off EVERY winter. i cleaned houses but i wasn't making much money, not enough to pay the bills. we survived on the venison & fish & what i brought home from the food pantry.

i know what it's like to look for work, to put in application after application & NEVER get a call. at this point, i haven't worked to 7 years & i don't expect to work ever again. if i hadn't gotten SSI, i would be probably homeless. as it is, i live in poverty but at least i have a roof over my head.

all you people who say that unemployment keeps people sitting on their couches, not looking for work don't know what you are talking about. when it runs out, there's NO way to get to a job interview, there's no money AT ALL. you are all IDIOTS.

oh & thanks for cutting my food stamps, too. that was really nice. since i am disabled & unable to work, i guess i don't get to eat, either.
 
 
+8 # Robbee 2014-01-02 12:35
Last year Itt Romney declared that if we elected him president, capitalist magic would create 12 million new jobs. Republicans see themselves as employers who benefit from every penny they can take from workers. Anytime any Republican talks about creating jobs note how it fits into an anti-worker agenda. Yes, denied unemployment benefits, starving workers will work for any wages, no matter how low. Republicans only want workers to starve so they will work for lower and lower wages. It's only about the money; follow the money and you can anticipate the Republican response to any worker related issue.
 
 
-17 # MidwesTom 2014-01-02 13:05
The vast majority of Americans both Dems and RePbs have no idea what live is like in the developing world. My business has taken me to several undeveloped and developing countries.

Unfortunately for the developed world businesses have discovered these countries like Bangladesh where the workers after striking are now being paid $75 month to make things that people here buy. As more and more stuff is made in very low wage countries there are fewer and fewer jobs in the high wage countries. The only thing that allows us to keep paying high wages is our ability to print money which is a product of our military power. Lose the power and we will be forced to compete with much lower wages here.
 
 
+10 # dkonstruction 2014-01-02 14:14
Quoting MidwesTom:
The only thing that allows us to keep paying high wages is our ability to print money which is a product of our military power. Lose the power and we will be forced to compete with much lower wages here.


The median annual wage in the US is $27,519.

(http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2013/11/4/median-wage-stagnationincomeinequality.html).

This is the lowest it has been since 1998. Wages for the vast majority of Americans have been flat (and, when adjusted for inflation have actually gone down) since the early 1970s. So, what "high wages" are you referring to?

What you are really saying is that US businesses that can shift their operations (or employ lower paid workers) in other countries CHOOSE to do so because they feel no loyalty to their fellow citizens and do not believe that they have any duty or obligation to employ them (even though these are also their customers) and pay them a living wage.
 
 
+11 # backwards_cinderella 2014-01-02 14:17
tom, it's very hard to be polite to you.

so we have to compete with "undeveloped countries"? so that's why we have to settle for a "much lower wage"?

pretty soon, it'll be slave labor here in america. in fact, it already is. making people on welfare work for their "benefits", making people in prisons work for the privilege of being incarcerated. for PENNIES.

you want to know why they ruined the economy, sent all the jobs overseas? THAT'S WHY. to build a new slave economy here in the states.

the military is a big part of it. when there's no jobs, joining the service is the only way to survive. you don't need a draft, no jobs is all the draft any country needs. really, it's genius. slave away at dead-end, slave-wage jobs or join the army. either way, it's a fascist's dream.
 
 
+8 # Billy Bob 2014-01-02 14:45
Tom's point is usually, that the U.S. should be a 3rd world country too. It's what Milton Friedman wanted.
 
 
+5 # DPM 2014-01-02 17:18
What is even "better" is make the "slaves" pay for their own housing, food, clothing, etc. What a deal! The "slave" owners don't even have to do that anymore.
 
 
+2 # HenryS1 2014-01-02 14:19
The power and influence we gain from our military dominance isn't channeled into protecting U.S. workers against competition with lower wages abroad. Outside of the minimum wage, markets work fluidly enough so that businesses act logically and outsource abroad when the costs are less. At the policy level we exert our influence in protecting our high-value industries with intellectual property rights laws "pushed" abroad, tariff issues, and competing for the control of natural resources and supply chains elsewhere in the world.

I'm as much in favor of "competing" using our advantages as anyone. It's just that "trickle-down" has dried up and efficiency is leading us towards more unemployment and income inequality, and our political process and our industries just don't rely as much on domestic labor, and that is what the vast majority of Americans can do. So "what's good for GM is good for the U.S." just isn't true anymore.
 
 
+7 # angelfish 2014-01-02 15:26
"Intellectually Hollow"??? This crew is Intellectually Neanderthal and I sometimes think they're Deaf, Dumb and Blind as well! I find it hard to believe that they are so far removed from the suffering of their constituents since you'd have to be all three to deny what's been happening to the working poor, beginning with Reagan's Administration! I think it's a congenital deformity in ALL Conservatives who have the amazing facility to see everything through rose colored glasses and ignore the suffering all around them! They can't see it because they don't WANT to see it. If they did, then, Oh, My God!, they'd have to actually HELP them! They're only used to writing checks for the Pentagon and Wealthy Americans who don't need anything!
 
 
+6 # DPM 2014-01-02 17:21
Don't forget...they are perfectly willing to have the government (taxpayers) give them money. Corporate welfare is "patriotic" in their book.
 
 
0 # Fraenkel.1 2014-01-03 12:50
The Republicans don't understand that mass unemployment is bad for the economy and thus and reduces the net worth of the wealthy who controll the party in the first place.
 
 
+2 # mighead 2014-01-03 17:05
I think the problem here is one of perception...

to the wealthy...corpo rate and private...

these times are BETTER THAN EVER...

record profits...

record low taxes...

the wealthy are FAR BEYOND 'back to normal'...

the problem is that very little of that has 'trickled down'...

anybody looking at Detroit, Philly, Austin, etc...would SEE THERE'S A PROBLEM!!!

but the wealthy do NOT have a problem here!!!

it's just the REST of us!!!
 

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