Political Animal


August 15, 2011 1:05 PM There’s nothing ‘puzzling’ about jobless aid

By Steve Benen

One of the top stories on Fox Nation this afternoon features this headline: “Amazing White House Discovery: Unemployment Creates Jobs.”

Readers are told, “President Obama has lately been pushing a number of policies that he says will create jobs, including extending unemployment benefits. This is puzzling, since new benefits obviously will not create jobs for unemployed people, who after all are the ones who need work.”

It’s troubling how often the right considers this “puzzling.” I know the right has been struggling with the argument for quite a while, but it’s really not that difficult to understand.

We’ve been over this a few times, but let’s briefly recap for Fox’s benefit. Paul Krugman had a column the Republican network might find helpful.

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.

Wait: there’s more. One main reason there aren’t enough jobs right now is weak consumer demand. Helping the unemployed, by putting money in the pockets of people who badly need it, helps support consumer spending. That’s why the Congressional Budget Office rates aid to the unemployed as a highly cost-effective form of economic stimulus. And unlike, say, large infrastructure projects, aid to the unemployed creates jobs quickly — while allowing that aid to lapse, which is what is happening right now, is a recipe for even weaker job growth, not in the distant future but over the next few months.

Krugman wrote that a year ago, and fortunately, benefits were extended a few months later. With Fox’s friends now in the House majority, the jobless probably won’t be as fortunate this time.

The basic concept here is quite simple: unemployment benefits are good for the economy. People who receive the aid aren’t sticking it in a mattress or a money-market fund; they’re spending it and doing so immediately because it’s their main source of income. This injects demand and capital into the economy quickly, helping the beneficiaries and the rest of us.

Fox finds this “puzzling” — or at least pretends to in order to play a stupid game for voters who don’t know better.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


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  • Redshift on August 15, 2011 1:11 PM:

    In Fox-world, wealth is created by rich people, stolen by the government and consumed by poor people or the unemployed. It's kind of like food, silly -- it can't possibly go anywhere after it goes to those lazy unemployed people!

    Yes, it's stupid. People who claim to be making economic prescriptions based on "common sense" are all scam artists.

  • thebewilderness on August 15, 2011 1:15 PM:

    The Fox talkers are a daily demonstration of the truth of the Upton Sinclair quote: It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!

  • c u n d gulag on August 15, 2011 1:17 PM:

    FOX News:
    We propagandize, you "decide."

    The best thing that could happen to this country is for 'Murderoch' to kick the bucket - and take Ailes with him.

    Please send double-extra-bacon-and-cheese burgers, very rare, with 'supersized' gravy and fries, and Jolt cola to them at FOX headquarters.

  • Grumpy on August 15, 2011 1:22 PM:

    "it can't possibly go anywhere after it goes to those lazy unemployed people!"

    That's exactly why the poor are poor: they can't handle money. Literally. They use unemployment checks as toilet paper in their outhouses; as kindling to light the fires under their whiskey stills; and as garnish for their plates of catfish & hush puppies at Sunday dinner.

  • Burr Deming on August 15, 2011 1:27 PM:

    There was not much press coverage when a Republican document contained this logic:

    A smaller government workforce increases the available supply of educated, skilled workers for private firms, thus lowering labor costs.

    So unemployment will make employing folks cheaper, which will increase employment.

    Where are you Fox, when our nation needs you?

  • DonBoy on August 15, 2011 1:31 PM:

    And, obviously, the headline doesn't mention benefits, it just mocks the supposed idea "unemployment creates jobs" -- which is, indeed silly, and has nothing to do with anything. If you're just scanning headlines, you have no idea what's being said.

  • R. Porrofatto on August 15, 2011 1:33 PM:

    Cutting off benefits to the unemployed will make them even more desperate for work ó but they canít take jobs that arenít there.

    In former times this was often referred to as a "problem." For any Goopers out there who can't get their head around that idea, it's just like you feel about the deficit, only justified.

  • DAY on August 15, 2011 1:36 PM:

    In others news, scientists find that food prevents starvation.

  • Trollop on August 15, 2011 1:41 PM:

    Unemployment benefits are charity to lazy people who won't get a job, Obama is a Marxist, our arguments are wrong on two accounts, already, blah-blah-blah-blah-blah..

    Heard it before.

  • stormskies on August 15, 2011 1:56 PM:

    Wonder if the 'puzzled' buffoons at Fox Propaganda would like to discuss actual reality reflected in the following facts:

    1. The the corporations are purposefully created an unemployment rate of around 9 to 10 percent in order to enforce competition for what jobs there are so as to be able to hire the youngest and cheapest worker.

    2. That the same corporations are purposefully hiring those THAT ARE ALREADY EMPLOYED for the job openings they do have.

    3. That the corporations are purposefully not hiring those that have been unemployed six months are more.

    4. That the corporations do all kinds of background checks including if one has a bad credit rating and, if so, not hiring such people.

    Wonder if they would find this 'puzzling' ?

  • RepublicanPointOfView on August 15, 2011 2:00 PM:

    All of you lazy unemployed bums should use the last of your welfare checks to move to California, Florida, and Georgia where jobs are plentiful.

    If you lazy unemployed bums were not so high-and-mighty, you could have those jobs where you get the added advantages of abundant, healthy sunshine and travel between your migrant fruit and vegetable picking jobs.

    If you lazy unemployed bums cannot move to states where you can pick crops, the least you could do is go into the lawn and pool care fields. It is manifestly unfair that you lazy unemployed bums insist on a living wage and if you deserve health care, your corporate employers will provide it.

  • square1 on August 15, 2011 2:10 PM:

    One fairly effective way to rebut misinformation is to -- horrors! -- have public hearings that expose the misinformation. I know that cspan doesn't get the ratings of American Idol, but points made during a good, entertaining hearing can propagate through the media via Maddow, Stewart, Colbert, etc.

    Those who recently watched Al Franken dismember Focus on the Familyís Tom Minnery will understand what I am talking about.

    What makes this altogether easier in the context of economic issues is that much of the lay Republican rhetoric cannot even be defended by conservative economists.

    In other words, you could call Republicans' economic experts to a hearing, ask them about statements from Bachmann and Cantor, and ask them if they agree or not.
    In many cases, I would be surprised if they didn't disagree with the Republican politician.

    For example, do you realize how far you would have to search for an economist who disputed the powerful multiplier effect of unemployment benefits? You can oppose unemployment benefits on other grounds, but what you can't do is deny that they have a short-term stimulus effect.

  • MuddyLee on August 15, 2011 2:33 PM:

    Fox News creates the climate that allows republicans to win office. It is just as important to fight Fox News as it is to fight republicans. Read the Rolling Stone article about Roger Ailes - he's actually worse than you think he is.

  • T-Rex on August 15, 2011 5:57 PM:

    Of COURSE they know better. They're playing the old, old game of quoting a phrase out of context to make someone sound stupid. Not long ago, Obama spoke about how automation has put people out of work, with ATM machines, automatic check-out scanners at grocery stores, robotics etc. Fox News played it for laughs: "[snicker] Can you believe that Obama said ATMs cause unemployment?" (Loud laughter from the blonde news bimbos)

  • DRN 0001 on August 15, 2011 6:41 PM:

    To give [dis-] credit where it's due, Fox News was merely highighting a blog post by the Washington Times' James Robbins. The argument remains dubm,regardles of source.

  • Crissa on August 15, 2011 8:09 PM:

    It's really quite simple (and you may paraphrase this):

    The unemployed person who gets government aid can buy dinner. That keeps the guy selling the dinner employed.

    The unemployed person who doesn't get aid can't buy dinner. Then the guy selling dinner will also be unemployed.

    Can't sell food to people without money. Can't stay in business if you can't sell your product.

  • Doug on August 15, 2011 9:20 PM:

    "This is puzzling, since new benefits obviously will not create jobs for unemployed people..." Fox News quoted by Steve Benen.

    Hows does Fox News KNOW that new benefits WON'T create jobs for unemployed people? If the unemployed continue to receive UIC, that means they will continue to have money to spend, if only on necessities.
    Necessities such as food, purchased at a supermarket, which, possibly, could hire another one or two people. That wouldn't create a massive drop in the unemployement figures, but it MIGHT keep them from going up. The same thing with utility bills and rent/mortgage payments. It may not DECREASE unemployment, but it helps prevent it getting worse.
    Unless, of course, THAT'S your aim...