Playing Political Football With The Unemployed

Josh Green makes the “case for extending jobless benefits in seven charts.” One of the most striking:

Unemployment Ending

How Republicans are approaching the unemployment insurance fight:

[M]ultiple Republicans are going all in on the suggestion that they would support extending benefits if only it were paid for. Republicans want to reframe this as a battle over how to pay for extending benefits, not over whether to extend them at all — as a fight over fiscal responsibility, not over whether to preserve the safety net amid mass unemployment.

Beutler suggests calling the GOP’s bluff:

[I]f Democrats relent and agree to an offset, one consolation will be some insight into the split between the GOP’s political opportunists and its unyielding ideologues — those who refuse to subsidize the less fortunate and have convinced themselves that the long-term unemployed have been lulled into complacency by unemployment benefits or have determined that it’s not in their interest to return to work. These are the folks who side with Heritage Action and other conservative groups warning Republicans not to vote for any UI extension, even one that’s deficit neutral.

Remember, nobody actually thinks unemployment is such an emergency that it’s appropriate to renew emergency unemployment benefits but not such an emergency that it’s better to let them expire if they add to the deficit. If anyone actually fit into that category they’d be willing to defray the cost by closing tiny tax loopholes. In the days ahead I wouldn’t be surprised if Republicans vote down such an offset unanimously.

Cassidy notes that “the financial cost of the program is pretty modest: about two billion dollars a month in 2013”:

Other than an ideological aversion to government spending of any kind, there is no reason not to extend unemployment benefits for a while longer. Economists sometimes worry that making them available for long periods will encourage the jobless to remain unemployed rather than taking jobs, but careful studies have failed to show much evidence of this. When employment openings are scarce, as they are still, a bigger worry is that curtailing benefits will encourage some of the long-term unemployed to drop out of the labor force completely. (As a condition for receiving benefits, recipients have to be looking for work.) When that happens, it inflicts further suffering on many of the people concerned, and crimps the growth potential of the economy at large.

Perhaps it isn’t accurate to say that most Republican senators and congressman don’t care about these things. But they are trapped inside a party and a conservative movement that, increasingly, makes them act as though this were the case.

Waldman considers the moral underpinnings of the UI debate:

When liberals talk about extending unemployment insurance, they talk about people who can’t find work and are keeping their heads above water only because of those benefits. Take away the benefits, and that family could lose their home or suffer other kinds of deprivation. What distresses liberals is the thought of a family that needs help not getting it. Conservatives don’t deny that those people exist. But they don’t talk about them. When conservatives talk about this issue, they focus on a different kind of person, the one who could get a job, but hasn’t because he’s chosen to suckle at government’s teat, making taxpayers pay for his continued enjoyment of things like food and heat.

Liberals don’t deny that those people exist, either. Somewhere, there’s an unemployed engineer who could get a menial job somewhere, but is managing to pay the rent and feed himself with the help of unemployment benefits, and is hoping that if he holds out a few more months he’ll be able to find a job in his chosen field. What liberals believe is that even if you think that guy is “undeserving,” taking away 50 other deserving people’s benefits just so you can tell that one guy to get his butt down to Arby’s to fill out an application would be unconscionably cruel. But that numeric argument is utterly unpersuasive to conservatives, because the family not getting the benefits they need—even fifty such families—doesn’t, for them, have the same moral urgency as the one guy getting benefits they think he doesn’t deserve.

Recent Dish on the unemployment insurance debate here.