Cutting Unemployment Benefits

Along with the recent drug testing idea comes the “theory” that cutting unemployment benefits will reduce unemployment. I’m not sure how politicians in Virginia conclude that starving people will somehow get to work within an economy bearing millions more workers than jobs, but they are pushing forward anyway. Today we have Billy Mitchell’s take on it:

“Unfortunately, the legislators in the State of Virginia clearly don’t log into the US Bureau of Labor Statistics all that often to study the latest data. Because they have determined that the way to cure their dreadful unemployment problem is to cut unemployment benefits and starve the unemployed into a job.

The problem is there is no credible theory that relates starvation with an increased capacity to gain employment when the economy is some millions of jobs short of the level necessary to provide work for all those who desire it.

Forget the smallest margin of unemployed who do not want to work. They are of a second-order of smallness that doesn’t warrant attention. The overwhelming majority (comprising millions of citizens) want to work but cannot find work because it is not to be found.”

Perhaps a bit boring for some but I can’t quit. The austerity argument is over, dead, buried. But the political calls to cut government help in spite of proof the help is needed and those dollars provide now missing stimulation for the economy continues to surprise me.

And check this little gem out. Republicans in the House of Representatives began quoting from an alleged letter from a constituent. Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) retelling a constituent’s story of watching a food stamp recipient in a supermarket checkout line pay for crab legs with an Electronic Benefit Transfer card. “He looks at the king crab legs and looks at his ground meat and realizes,” Gohmert said, “because he does pay income tax . . . he is actually helping pay for the king crab legs when he can’t pay for them for himself.”

Bad yes, and also quite untrue. But then again how much truth actually propagates on the U.S. House floor these days? Here is the Huffington Post’s take: ..” it would be a compelling story if letters to the editor featuring the same complaint didn’t appear in The Columbus Dispatch in 1993 and in the Myrtle Beach Sun-News in 2007. The crab complaint has recurred more than a dozen times in newspapers around the country..”  And the Post backs their assessment of falsehood with all the data. Who buys what, fraud rates, etc. Permanently slaying the perception that my tax money is being wasted by providing food stamps for the poor and needy.

“Nearly a third of SNAP recipients earn money by working, and 91% have annual incomes at or below the poverty line. Most recipients are either children, elderly or disabled. Fraud such as SNAP trafficking, whereby recipients exchange cards for lesser sums of cash, has dropped from 4 cents per dollar of benefits in 1993 to 1 cent per dollar from 2006 to 2008, according to the Department of Agriculture.”

There are more people on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food Stamps) and Unemployment than in 2006. That IS what happens when the economy collapses and many lose jobs, homes, and more. But to think we should starve them is clearly out of bounds. Besides Bill Mitchell brings all the data to the table demonstrating how the ratios of dependency are improving since 2010. We are heading in the right direction albeit slowly. Perhaps getting it right is why some of these guys have a problem. Hmm?

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