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Tilting at Windmills

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August 3, 2009

MALKIN, KATZ, AND GOVERNMENT CHEESE.... For reasons I'll never fully understand, ABC News' "This Week" invited right-wing blogger Michelle Malkin to participate in its roundtable discussion yesterday. It was a reminder that the darned liberal media just isn't willing to consider the perspective of right-wing activists.

It was largely a forgettable appearance, except for Malkin's argument in opposition to extending unemployment benefits during the recession.

"If you put enough government cheese in front of people, they are just going to keep eating it and you're just kicking the can down the road. And just to hammer this point about the unemployment benefits extension again, it was Larry Katz, who's a chief labor economist for the Clinton labor department, who came out with a study -- and there are a lot of these smart economists who say this -- that if you keep extending these 'temporary' unemployment benefits you're just going to extend joblessness even more."

When host George Stephanopoulos suggested that didn't make sense, Malkin responded, "That was a Clinton economist who said it, George." When Stephanopoulos pressed further, Malkin added that "this Clinton economist" made the case against extended unemployment benefits.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Cynthia Tucker made the entirely reasonable point that there are far more job seekers than there are jobs. The unemployed aren't lazy and don't want a meager stipend from the government; they want a steady paycheck. Extending unemployment benefits helps keep these millions of struggling Americans from being completely drowned by economic circumstances beyond their control.

But there's another key angle to this: Larry Katz, the Harvard labor economist and Clinton administration economist Malkin pointed to with such enthusiasm, apparently disagrees with Malkin. If fact, shortly before Malkin was on ABC, the New York Times reported that Katz believes additional unemployment benefits offers necessary assistance to struggling families and can even add quick fiscal stimulus to the economy.

In other words, Malkin's source, who she cited repeatedly, seems to think Malkin's wrong.

I should note, though, that I don't really blame Malkin. Anyone familiar with her work probably isn't surprised by the fact that she warned of "government cheese" and incorrectly cited the beliefs of a Clinton administration economist. The blame, in a case like this, goes to the ABC News producer who thought it was a good idea to have Malkin on in the first place, as if she were a credible and serious political observer.

Steve Benen 8:00 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (46)

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First amendment and all that crap, but why they would invite that vile hatefull woman on to the show is beyond comprehension. My guess is that the publisher of her latest hate screed paid to have her put on the show.

Just sayin'

Posted by: John R on August 3, 2009 at 8:09 AM | PERMALINK

In fairness, it is possible IMHO to have such a desirable "dole" package that it disincentivizes people. I've even heard some (in certain categories) say, they're taking it more easy since they're getting enough for awhile. But the net result of pulling the extensions would be harsh.

More directly: the MSM should bring on progressive commenters, who aren't even "nutty", like Glenn Greenwald and Barb Ehrenreich, or even David Sirota who can be tart (?). But the MSM, much less Faux etc., have an unwritten (?) rule that lefty economic populist types are the scum of the Earth and won't have them on.

Posted by: Neil B ♪ on August 3, 2009 at 8:18 AM | PERMALINK

Yet once again a GOP wing nut reminds us of a condition known as projection. I remember when I used to watch This Week. And Meet The Press. And CNN. Perhaps they should host some of Jon Stewart's writers.

Posted by: Chopin on August 3, 2009 at 8:19 AM | PERMALINK

I saw that and couldn't believe it. Malkin is such an idiot, suggesting that unemployment insurance is a source of unemployment, no economist -- left or right -- would suggest that is true right now. And to imply that a Dem economist would say that? It was perhaps the dumbest thing I've seen this side of Fox News. The other panelists looked embarrassed to be sitting in her company.

I know that George likes to try out new panelists during the dog days of summer, but Malkin? I just wish they could of discussed the whole birther thing to make her look like even more of a dimwit.

Posted by: g. powell on August 3, 2009 at 8:20 AM | PERMALINK

As to Neil B(musical note)'s comment above, maybe some social critics say that unemployment insurance disincentives people to look for work, but there is no empirical data to support that. No economist is saying right now that unemployment insurance is a cause of unemployment. It's obvious that it's employers cutting back. Obvious to everyone but Malkin.

Posted by: g. powell on August 3, 2009 at 8:25 AM | PERMALINK

Moreover, the term "government cheese" is consistently used as a metaphor for "something the government gives you that you would never buy for yourself and is only usable as a last resort." Nobody wants to eat "government cheese"-- it's the low-quality dregs that the government is trying to get rid of, and you only eat is as long as you can't afford anything else.

Posted by: Tyro on August 3, 2009 at 8:27 AM | PERMALINK

I think Malkin has made in-roads the same way Palin has--she gives wingnuts starbursts in their pants, and they just sit and smile as she rambles on.

There must be GOP fan fic out there where guys get to screw Malkin, Palin, or one of the Fox empty-heads on top of Reagan's grave. "Dear NRO--I never thought this would happen to me, but..."

Posted by: rob! on August 3, 2009 at 8:29 AM | PERMALINK

Malkin was really just repeating a long-held right-wing trope. Some of us are old enough to remember when unemployment benefits were not taxed. Trent Lott and Tom DeLay made a big deal back in the early '90s recession about how vital it was to tax unemployment benefits so that "being unemployed would not be so attractive."

Republicans really believe in the marrow of their bones that there is no such thing as unemployment. All of the people without jobs--every single one of them--are just lazy bums who don't want to work.

Posted by: Domage on August 3, 2009 at 8:35 AM | PERMALINK

Wow, the words "Malkin, "credible" and "serious" in the same phrase! And on a progressive web site, to boot!
There goes the neighborhood....

Posted by: Bruce B on August 3, 2009 at 8:36 AM | PERMALINK

Your morning aphorism

In the war for wingnut eyeballs...
there is no bottom of the barrel.

Posted by: koreyel on August 3, 2009 at 8:39 AM | PERMALINK

"That was a Clinton economist who said it, George."

And? That's an incredibly weak defense.

The problem with Malkin et al. It's not about right and wrong, it's about Right and Left.

Posted by: TonyB on August 3, 2009 at 8:40 AM | PERMALINK

Malkin is a Nazi, disturbingly camouflaged as an Asian school-girl.

Like most media personalities in her crowd, she doesn't believe the dribble that oozes out of her face. She's just making money. That's not an excuse -- it's an explanation.

"I have a whole chapter devoted to that in my book, George!"

She's a cartoon.

Posted by: JJC on August 3, 2009 at 8:42 AM | PERMALINK

Ever since I mentioned the Gong Show last week, references to it have been raising their ugly heads.

Speaking of which, remember the Unknown Comic?

Michelle, put the paper bag back on. . .

Posted by: DAY on August 3, 2009 at 8:45 AM | PERMALINK

Shame on the liberal media!

Once again the liberal media is taking steps to make conservatives look bad. Everyone knows that Michelle is from the Fruit Loops family of cereals. ABC & Stephanopoulos are promoting a false image of conservatives by having her on their programming.

Shame on the liberal media!

Now, if only they would stop promoting the birthers and let us get back to real discussions of why ObamaCare will lead to the euthanization of our seniors!

Posted by: RepublicanPointOfView on August 3, 2009 at 8:47 AM | PERMALINK

Steve, I am really glad that you watched Malkin so could I spend yesterday morning enjoying myself out in the fresh air. Thanks. That must have been tough duty.

Posted by: Ron Byers on August 3, 2009 at 8:47 AM | PERMALINK

Darn, I missed it. Was she wearing her cheerleading outfit? Sounds like it.

Posted by: josef on August 3, 2009 at 8:49 AM | PERMALINK

a perpetual Clinton-hating machine quoting - and agreeing with - someone who worked with Clinton? that should've raised red flags all over the place that this contemptible shrew was pulling "facts" out of her ass.

Posted by: slappy magoo on August 3, 2009 at 8:54 AM | PERMALINK

So, MM is now doing to national TV, what she did every week on local TV in Seattle. She would appear with two seemingly moderate white males and spout her swill.

However, I will never forget when she wrote a column for the Seattle Times, where she joined with a RepuG State Senator from Bellevue, WA to denounce the state upgrading their qualifications for children to receive Federal medical insurance. Washington State had to agree with the Federal requirement of the upper limit being $38,500 for a family of four. Malkin and the Senator called this "Upper Middle Class". This at a time, when one could not qualify to buy a garage in MM's Wallingford neighborhood, if they only made 38 five. This was in, either '98 or '99, when the techie boom was afire in Seattle and home values and property taxes for such were skyrocketing. Oh, and that Bellevue Senator ran, unsuccessfully, for Governor, but, Seattle lucked out - MM left town.

Posted by: berttheclock on August 3, 2009 at 8:59 AM | PERMALINK

Tyro - I used to live on WIC-approved cheddar. I bought it because it was cheap and delicious. Ok, it wasn't cracker barrel, but it was an adequate accompaniment for my ramen noodles and hotdogs.

I do not know how I lived through college without getting a sodium and fat induced infarction.

But lay off the cheese. Also.

Posted by: inkadu on August 3, 2009 at 8:59 AM | PERMALINK

Ah yes, that cheese - Great program - Kansas to the rescue as much of that cheese was stored in vast underground limestone caves near Atchison, Kansas.

Posted by: berttheclock on August 3, 2009 at 9:03 AM | PERMALINK

Malkin just reveals what we already know: conservatives don't understand economics.

Unemployment assistance is about more than making sure you don't lose a roof over your head when your company lays you off. It's as much, or perhaps more, about limiting the contraction to the economy caused by you losing your job and having no money to spend, which left unaddressed, would lead to more people losing their jobs and having no money to spend, since you and others like you are no longer buying anything.

They have never understood that giving someone a "handout" is not a zero-sum game; that just because someone gets a check or some food stamps when they aren't working, it doesn't mean the money magically disappears and is never seen again. It gets spent, which keeps things from getting worse. A conservative thinks a better outcome for everyone involved would be, for example, for the unemployed person to be denied food assistance - whether because it costs money, or "encourages laziness" or whatever. The end result of putting that belief in practice would be millions of hungry people, layoffs at grocery stores and food processors, lower farm and commodity prices, and a food glut at the same time there is widespread hunger - all of which can be avoided with the simple expedient of handing out food vouchers to people who have no money to buy food. You not only have to be immoral to see the former as a preferable outcome; you also have to be brutally stupid.

Posted by: Jennifer on August 3, 2009 at 9:04 AM | PERMALINK

And one other thing about the food stamp program: to date, I have yet to meet or hear of a single conservative who understands why it was first implemented.

It was because so many young men who reported for service in WWII had to be turned away, thanks to health issues stemming from poor nutrition during their childhoods in the depression. As a result, Congress quite wisely concluded that ensuring adequate nutrition is a national security issue.

Why do conservatives want to weaken our national security?

Posted by: Jennifer on August 3, 2009 at 9:13 AM | PERMALINK

"For reasons I'll never fully understand, ABC News' "This Week" invited right-wing blogger Michelle Malkin to participate .."

Presumably the A-list panel members, everyone who is knowledgeable about issues, is at the Vinyard or wherever the DC ruling classes go for August?

Posted by: bob h on August 3, 2009 at 9:16 AM | PERMALINK

My perception of the roundtable was that it was not a good day for Malking in that both Steph and the other panelists treated her like the loud drunk at the end of the bar -- curtly addressing her craziest "points", but otherwise pretending she wasn't there.

Also, Steph regularly included Katrina vanden Heuvel, Paul Krugman, E.J. Dionne, and other progressives of good standing. Compare his record with David Gregory's, whose panelists span from the center right to the far right, and I can forgive him Michele Malkin this once.

Posted by: scott_m on August 3, 2009 at 9:19 AM | PERMALINK

"That was a Clinton economist who said it, George."

Is that the same President Clinton who signed the 1996 Welfare Reform Act?

Posted by: 2Manchu on August 3, 2009 at 9:25 AM | PERMALINK

From what I've discerned over the years of Malkin's political point of view, the cheese analogy seems fitting. She has shown time and again her penchant of projecting the hoi polloi as dirty rats! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on August 3, 2009 at 9:46 AM | PERMALINK

Jennifer: "The end result of putting that belief in practice would be millions of hungry people, layoffs at grocery stores and food processors, lower farm and commodity prices, and a food glut at the same time there is widespread hunger..."

That's what we had during the Great Depression.

And, you know what, maybe we'd be going through that again, but we never will because our society has smartly reformed itself since then and put systems into place that prevent the horror from recurring.

Or maybe we just need to let the free market work.

Berttheclock- I thought they were storing the remains of crashed extra-terrestial space craft in the in the vast underground limestone caverns. Still, there's always room cheese in my house; don't see how caverns would be any different.

Posted by: inkadu on August 3, 2009 at 9:48 AM | PERMALINK

G. powell, you can create the "♪" by holding the Alt key while typing "13". (Seeing it as a note depends on browser settings.) BTW I don't say that "unemployment benefits" per se disincentivize people in any relevant way, or that ours as currently run is such - just that it's possible for such a system to have such effects depending on this and that. We shouldn't assume the truth has to be totally the opposite of everything conservatives say, that is as simple-minded as accepting their philosophy as a whole.

I think a way to encourage nearly full employment is to let companies "super-deduct" the cost of employment by using a factor to multiply by, and less deduction for other things. Then it makes sense for them to hire lots of people.

"tyrannogenius" ♪ ♫

Posted by: Neil B ♪ on August 3, 2009 at 10:46 AM | PERMALINK

I'm just coming off six months' unemployment, and I have to say that not only was having UI NOT a disincentive to finding work, but the $405/week in my pocket allowed me to participate in the consumer economy (groceries, car repair, job interview wardrobe, the occasional plaything for the kids), thereby helping OTHERS stay employed. If that's not a win/win, then I don't know what is.

This sort of spending--which, by the way, is supported almost entirely by revenues from UI withholding--is precisely what's needed at this time.

What bugs me most about Malkin is that she knows she's wrong.

Posted by: Foundajob on August 3, 2009 at 10:47 AM | PERMALINK

I hate MM. She is my personal nemesis, but I have to give her credit for one thing: She is a big part of the reason I finally started blogging. It really chapped my hide that the most prominent Asian American woman in politics was this repulsive WATB. So, a grudging 'thanks' to MM for that, but as for the rest of it, she needs to zip it.

Posted by: asiangrrlMN on August 3, 2009 at 10:49 AM | PERMALINK

"The other panelists looked embarrassed to be sitting in her company."

Particularly Cynthia Tucker. If looks could kill ...

Posted by: Cal Gal on August 3, 2009 at 10:57 AM | PERMALINK

Neil B- I'm guessing your Alt-13 trick only works with the number pad. I'm on a laptop w/o one, so I can't confirm.

Posted by: inkadu on August 3, 2009 at 11:22 AM | PERMALINK

Once again the same conundrum surrounds a wingnut: cynical or stupid? Cynical, or stupid?

And, as it is every time this conundrum appears, one can only conclude "some of both."

Although it would be more than interesting to know if Malkin is simply lying, twisting, or is too stupid to know what she's talking about.

Posted by: LL on August 3, 2009 at 12:14 PM | PERMALINK

When I saw she was going to be on, I thought WHAT???. However, after watching their discussion I came away sort of glad she was on-if only to showcase how looney she is. She was clearly uncomforable with normal reasonable people. It's easy for her on FOX where they all agree with her. On ABC, she acted like the nutcase she is. I almost choked when Cynthia asked what Prof. Gates' crime was and Malkin answered "you are supposed to be polite with policemen". Every appearance like this reinforces how ignorant she is and lessens her so called popularity.

Posted by: kraftysue on August 3, 2009 at 12:56 PM | PERMALINK

Yes, the number pad. I even put the note on my FaceBook name. When you get to a NP, have fun - all kinds of stuff.
☺ ♪ ♫ ↨ ⌠ ■

Posted by: Neil B ♪ on August 3, 2009 at 1:14 PM | PERMALINK

I also think that her appearance yesterday had the benefit of forcing her to attempt to defend her ridiculous ideas up against people who wouldn't let her get away with illogical assertions. She was so out of her element, and *she* looked uncomfortable.

Posted by: Cindy McCant on August 3, 2009 at 2:12 PM | PERMALINK

I think that the MSM should have the main right wingers on occasionally. In the first place their followers will always follow them even if it's over the cliff, but to not shine light on them is a mistake. Malkin, Rush and the rest have had their thoughts so inbred amongst themselves that they have created an alternate reality. Bring them on into the light.

Posted by: muffler on August 3, 2009 at 2:29 PM | PERMALINK

I almost fell out of my chair when they announced who was on the roundtable. Is Michael Moore on it next week??

Posted by: danfromtexas on August 3, 2009 at 2:54 PM | PERMALINK

Malkin, Rush and the rest have had their thoughts so inbred amongst themselves that they have created an alternate reality. Bring them on into the light.

True. Whenever Limbaugh has received widespread exposure, such as on ESPN's pre-game football show, he has been a disaster within weeks.

His co-host at ESPN, former NFL player Tom Jackson, was furious with Limbaugh and shredded him on-air the week after Rush made his stupid comments about race. Too bad Rush didn't have a chance to confront the former linebacker in person.

Posted by: Pug on August 3, 2009 at 4:40 PM | PERMALINK

I guess Malkin did not get the Republican memo that the preferred conservative stimulus idea is to put money directly into the hands of consumers who know how to spend their money far better than the government does, blah, blah, blah. Of course, what Republicans meant was giving consumers tax cuts that fits with conservative ideology but is far less stimulative at a time of 10% unemployment than direct government demand payments in the form of unemployment checks. But who cares if Malkin is an economic illiterate. She's got the anti-Obama party line down pat.

Posted by: Ted Frier on August 4, 2009 at 9:17 AM | PERMALINK

Why does anyone think that what she said is odd? It's simply a statement of economic orthodoxy. This is Richard Layard, the labor economist (and yes, he's very much a man of the left):

"The rationale for welfare-to-work is simple. If you pay people to be inactive, there will be more inactivity. So you should pay them instead for being active for either working or training to improve their employability.
The evidence for the first proposition is everywhere around us. For example, Europe has a notorious unemployment problem. But if you break down unemployment into short-term (under a year) and long-term, you find that short-term unemployment is almost the same in Europe as in the U.S. around 4% of the workforce. But in Europe there are another 4% who have been out of work for over a year, compared with almost none in the United States. The most obvious explanation for this is that in the U.S. unemployment benefits run out after 6 months, while in most of Europe they continue for many years or indefinitely."

Posted by: Tim Worstall on August 4, 2009 at 10:46 AM | PERMALINK

How can anyone invite that moron Oriental on their show? She is just a stupid brown chick, a traitor to her race. I hope she gets anally raped, cause that is all people like her and the other RepuGlicans deserve.

She is a stupid Oriental cunt, that is all.

Posted by: LiberalWarrior on August 4, 2009 at 2:15 PM | PERMALINK

Katz wrote a paper in 1997 Journal of Public Economics with the following result.

"The results indicate that a one week increase in potential benefit duration increases the average duration of the unemployment spells of UI recipients by 0.16 to 0.20 weeks."

Malkin was correct to cite Katz. Maybe Katz is now saying his research is crap.

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