When congressional Republicans explain their opposition to extended unemployment benefits, they don’t say, “We dislike jobless Americans.” They actually argue the opposite: they like the unemployed and want what’s best for them, so GOP lawmakers have cut off benefits so jobless Americans will have no choice but to accept an available position, re-enter the workforce, and earn a paycheck worth more than a government check.
In effect, it’s just tough love. The jobless will thank them later.
What’s more, taking this argument one step further, congressional Republicans also believe they’ve been proven right. After the GOP cut off extended benefits a few days after Christmas, the job picture has been pretty good – over 530,000 jobs were created from January through March – and workforce participation has improved. “See?” Republicans replied, “we were right all along.”
Except, as Ben Casselman noted, they really weren’t.
The cutoff of federal unemployment benefits doesn’t seem to be helping the long-term unemployed get back to work. […]So far, however, the evidence doesn’t seem to support that theory. Rather than finding jobs, the long-term unemployed continue to be out of luck…. First, the short-term unemployed have a much better chance of finding a job than the long-term unemployed and always have. Second, the short-term unemployed are seeing a steady improvement in their prospects, but the long-term jobless are not. And third, there’s been no major shift since the benefits program expired at the end of last year.
This shouldn’t come as too big a surprise to anyone other than GOP lawmakers (assuming their talking points are sincere).
If, say, this were the Clinton era and the unemployment rate was below 4%, the nation was in the midst of a hiring boom, and employers were tripping over each other trying to hire people, we could at least have a conversation about the merits of extended jobless assistance and whether the benefits are necessary.
But we’re not. Indeed, the very idea underpinning the Republican talking points is that the unemployed are choosing to be unemployed, lazily preferring jobless aid over a readily available paycheck. The argument should be ridiculous on its face – the U.S. economy has improved dramatically since the height of the Great Recession, but to think that the job market has fully recovered is simply nuts.
And now we can look beyond common sense and evaluate the quarterly data, which reinforces what many of us suspected before: the GOP argument against extended unemployment aid was wrong.
In theory, this should have at least some bearing on the policy debate on Capitol Hill, though if recent history is any guide, it won’t – independent data is easily ignored by a post-policy party.