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Two more GOPers say unemployment benefits encourage folks to stay unemployed

As you know, Republicans such as Sharron Angle have gotten national attention for making the creative argument that we need to cut unemployment benefits because the current high benefit levels act as an incentive for the jobless to stay unemployed.

Dems have been seizing on such comments to argue that the GOP is institutionally hostile to the jobless.

Now Dems have unearthed two more examples of Republicans making a similar case: Ron Johnson, the Tea Party-backed Senate candidate challenging Russ Feingold in Wisconsin; and Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina.

Here's Johnson, in an interview last month with Wisconsin Public Television:

One of the economic advisors to President Obama actually wrote a paper or made statements a few years ago talking about the extension of unemployment benefits actually prolongs unemployment. When you continue to extend unemployment benefits, people really don't have the incentive to go take other jobs. They'll just wait the system out until their benefits run out, then they'll go out and take, probably not as high paying jobs as they'd like to take, but that's really how you have to get back to work. You have to take the work that's available at the wage rates that's available.

I'm not sure what Obama economic adviser Johnson is referring to, and it's unclear whether this Obama adviser ever said this, but either way, Johnson is clearly citing the idea approvingly.

And here's Burr in an interview on C-Span in March flagged by the North Carolina Democratic Party:

The wrong thing to do is to automatically today extend unemployment for 12 months. I think that's a discouragement to individuals that are out there to actually go out and go through the interviews

This is just wrong. As many have pointed out already, there are multiple people who remain unemployed per every job available. And there are no studies I've seen showing that those who have lost their unemployment benefits have miraculously enjoyed better luck finding a job since.

In fairness to the GOP, the official Senate leadership position is that unemployment benefits should be extended, as long as the costs are offset without boosting the deficit. But these types of comments were national news when Angle was caught making them. So it seems likely that Dems will jump on these latest ones to build their broader case, particularly since the political war over unemployment is white hot right now.

By Greg Sargent  |  July 20, 2010; 2:01 PM ET
Categories:  Senate Dems , Senate Republicans , economy  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Inside GOP's strategy on unemployment
Next: Did White House fire woman on strength of bogus Breitbart video?


The conversation about UI benefits has been unfortunately (and typically) limited to talking points and emotional appeals. Its another case where the quality of the discourse on economics in this country is so woefully inadequate.

The fact is that empirical evidence exists indicating that lengthy UI benefits can decrease the incentive to look for new work - but only when employment is near full. In most states, that is nowhere near the case and so the economic argument is very strongly in favor of extension.

Also, as Ezra Klein has pointed out, benefits are not evenly distributed across states. In Nebraska, where the unemployment rate is under 5%, benefits run out long before 99 weeks. In Nevada, on the other hand, unemployment is over 14% and UI benefits are all that stand between a lot of people and poverty.

I wish I had a snappy talking point for Dems on this - I don't. But I think the country (and Dems , since they are right on this one) suffer for the generally low quality of the dialogue on economics. If Dem pols and pundits knew more about the economy and fostered and environment in which economic realities were explained to people, I think they could better sell their policies. Instead we get a media environment in which economic policy is always framed as a purely ideological issue with little input from economists.

Posted by: jbossch | July 20, 2010 2:19 PM | Report abuse

Look, it is simple. Business and jobs are now overseas. There is an abundance of 3rd world labor here. The rich powerful and well connected will have first dibs on any decent jobs. Your chance of getting a decent paying and desirable job has fallen to about zero.

If we don't place ultra-high tariffs on imported goods and kick out illegal aliens, along with placing a very low cap on legal immigration, we are doomed. It is in the cards, read 'em and weep! An extension of time, a block of more weeks of job-benefit-welfare, is simply pointless! Don't allow yourself to go from a Proud American Worker to a deplorable welfare recipient! It is going to take everything we have got, to insure every American has a decent job!

Posted by: WinstonCourt | July 20, 2010 2:23 PM | Report abuse

They're all saying it because it is the Republican Party line -- regardless of the facts.

GOP: "We think Americans are stupid"

Posted by: Ethan2010 | July 20, 2010 2:26 PM | Report abuse

In 2008, when Bush sent out stimulus checks to Americans, by putting money back into the economy it would stimulate spending, bolstering the economy! Nobody yelled “socialism” and economically it was the right thing to do! Now since Obama has been in office,any money spent is called “socialism”, “no” has been the republican answer to most programs.Republicans crying we can’t afford it after they ran up the biggest debt ever 11 trillion dollars! America needs a third party, the republicans don’t want to spend a dime on unemployment benefits, any program that might enhance the economy, so its so broken they can fix it! And regain political power at any cost to the economy! Pulling out of two wars which are sapping our treasure and lives, starting projects to repair Americas infrastructure, is the only hope to reduce debt and stimulate economy!

Posted by: roosboys | July 20, 2010 2:27 PM | Report abuse

n A Nutshell.

When Republicans see a poor person drowning, they rush to throw a lifeline to the guy on board his yacht, who is not even in the water.

Posted by: Liam-still | July 20, 2010 2:30 PM | Report abuse

This just in.

Republican fat cats have all decided to quit their jobs, to take advantage of unemployment benefits.

They will have it so good, that they will not even bother to look for new jobs.

Posted by: Liam-still | July 20, 2010 2:34 PM | Report abuse

Where Are The Jobs:

They are in China, where Republicans, starting with Nixon, and then under twenty years of Reagan Bush One, and Bush Two, rule, sent them.

You have to love how Republicans have turned the largest communist country in the world, into an economic powerhouse, that has taken most of America's factory jobs, while at the same time, those same Republicans keep wetting their beds over feeble Cuba.

Posted by: Liam-still | July 20, 2010 2:37 PM | Report abuse

The economic adviser Johnson is referring to is Lawrence Summers, who refuted such claims as taken out of context in a White House blog post on July 14. Here's the link:

Posted by: crmoyer | July 20, 2010 2:37 PM | Report abuse

The Republicans are full of it:

1. Unemployment benefits are very low. Noone stops looking for work and lives off them

2. You must be looking, and prove that you are looking, for work to collect unemployment benefits.

Posted by: AMviennaVA | July 20, 2010 2:42 PM | Report abuse

Republican Cognitive Dissonance: In A Nutshell.

President Obama has not created the jobs,

but unemployed people should not get their unemployment compensation extended, because it will just encourage them to not fill the jobs that have not been created, under Obama.

Honest to God, folks. That is the gist of the Republicans' position.

Posted by: Liam-still | July 20, 2010 2:44 PM | Report abuse

Add PA GOP Gubernatorial Candidate Tom Corbett to this list of politicians who have alleged that extended unemployment leads to intentional joblessness. His Democratic opponent has been all over this, calling press conferences to highlight Corbett's statement.

Posted by: rcairo | July 20, 2010 2:45 PM | Report abuse

O/T but WOW --

Even Erick Erickson is having his doubts about Breitbart's video: "I'm hoping there is more to the video of Shirley Sherrod, because otherwise it seems like the right just got the scalp of a penitent lady."

Posted by: cmccauley60 | July 20, 2010 2:47 PM | Report abuse

Where are the "Jobs" who was created???? They are in China, Korea, etc.????? My brother in two weeks drops 163 applications and no body call him. Where are the Jobs???? In the Senate or in the Congress??? Is to easy talk about like that when you are in the Senate or in the Congress. But is more easy for us to vote "No" for the Republican party in the elections day.

Posted by: reynaldowilliam | July 20, 2010 2:51 PM | Report abuse

Republicans" Advice to the unemployed.

Just go out, and fill those jobs that are not open.

Posted by: Liam-still | July 20, 2010 2:52 PM | Report abuse

"Even Erick Erickson is having his doubts about Breitbart's video"

Yeah, that can't be good news for Breitbart if he's lost Erickson.

Posted by: schrodingerscat | July 20, 2010 2:53 PM | Report abuse

ya, when the man who called souter a 'goat f*)#ing child molester' thinks you've gone too far...

Posted by: blahgblogwordpresscom | July 20, 2010 2:58 PM | Report abuse

Ha! Good one blahg.

Posted by: Ethan2010 | July 20, 2010 3:01 PM | Report abuse


There's a whole lot more to this story. Digby has a post up about it that is very revealing. For some reason we have a tendency to play right into their hands. I'm getting pretty tired of it. We had the whole abortion thing last week and they totally caved to the pro-lifers on coverage in the high risk pool and now this. Wimps, pure and simple. How can we expect anyone to stand up for the middle class and the looming lost decade when they can't even support their own people from bogus right wing attacks.

"Sherrod told CNN on Tuesday that she was told repeatedly to resign Monday afternoon after the clip surfaced. "They harassed me," she said. "I got three calls from the White House. At one point they asked me to pull over to the side of the road and do it because you are going to be on Glenn Beck tonight."

Sherrod said the calls came from Cheryl Cook, USDA deputy undersecretary for rural development. "The administration was not interested in hearing the truth. They didn't want to hear the truth," she said."

Posted by: lmsinca | July 20, 2010 3:04 PM | Report abuse

I hear you, lms. Seems like a little spine stiffening is in order for our democratic leadership. The right wing crazies cannot be allowed to continue to scare with the their shadows and lies.

Posted by: cmccauley60 | July 20, 2010 3:08 PM | Report abuse


ya. they should 'un accept' her resignation and/or she should sue brietbart.

Posted by: blahgblogwordpresscom | July 20, 2010 3:09 PM | Report abuse

This is totally ridiculous. My Grandpapa used to tell these bums "Get a Job!" when they would hang out side our factory begging for food in the 30's. The GOP is RIGHT! Let's not waste money on these lazy, small people. It's is now time to support and extend the Bush Tax Cuts for the Wealthy. Even if you are unemployed or homeless, politely ask someone with a cell to let you to make this important call to your congressman. It's that important!
And don't forget America, Barak HUSSIEN Obama is a Kenyan born muslim communist!

Posted by: Bush2 | July 20, 2010 3:09 PM | Report abuse

Forgot the link, Digby got her story from Kevin Drum over at motherjones. There's more.

Posted by: lmsinca | July 20, 2010 3:12 PM | Report abuse


That angle of the story may be true, but the real news is that Breitbart has been caught AGAIN targeting black people with his fraudulent videos.

Also, here is a different story, which actually involves criminal fraud. If we had a whole propaganda network like Fox does, this Glen Beck-assisted SCAM would be all over the news:

Good As Goldline: Congress And CA Law Enforcement Probing Glenn Beck's Favorite Gold Seller

"""Authorities in California have opened an official investigation into Goldline International, which urges consumers to buy gold to protect themselves from the supposed inevitable devaluing of American currency -- and features Glenn Beck in some of its advertisements.

A House Commerce subcommittee also announced today that it's planning a hearing on Goldline, which "uses aggressive sales tactics and conservative spokespeople such as Fox News' Glenn Beck to sell overpriced gold coins."

According to the Santa Monica City Attorney's office, the investigation was opened after it received more than 100 complaints from customers, some of whom alleged that gold was sold to them under false pretenses, and others who claimed they did not receive the gold as advertised."""

Posted by: Ethan2010 | July 20, 2010 3:16 PM | Report abuse

"Add PA GOP Gubernatorial Candidate Tom Corbett to this list of politicians who have alleged that extended unemployment leads to intentional joblessness. His Democratic opponent has been all over this, calling press conferences to highlight Corbett's statement."

Corbett, as the current AG, also joined the states' lawsuit against the health care bill. The guy is a complete moron.

The Dem candidate, Onorato, has even set up a new website to take advantage of the gaffe:

Posted by: steve-2304 | July 20, 2010 3:24 PM | Report abuse

I know that most progressives do not care for Lindsey Graham, but I like to give the man credit for sometimes being willing to defy his party, and be a Profile In Courage.

He is a Conservative Republican, but I find much to admire in the man's willingness to occasionally vote like an actual maverick, and not like the faux maverick from Arizona.

" With the support of a single Republican, the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday approved the nomination of Solicitor General Elena Kagan as an associate justice of the Supreme Court. The full Senate is expected to confirm her before starting its August recess.

Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., split with his party to support Kagan"

Posted by: Liam-still | July 20, 2010 3:28 PM | Report abuse


This Shirley Sherrod story is sickening. She may have been targeted by Breitbart, but she was railroaded by the Administration. Shame on them all. She ought to be reinstated immediately, with a personal public apology from the POTUS.

Posted by: suekzoo1 | July 20, 2010 3:30 PM | Report abuse

Liam, I read that too. Give credit where credit is due. Lindsey deserves it in this case.

Posted by: mikefromArlington | July 20, 2010 3:34 PM | Report abuse

I'm a lazy no good and unemployed.

Anyone who presents me as so, I'll take your job at half pay. No matter what you do, where you work, or what you get paid.

Go brag to your boss about how you can take one more moocher off the welfare line.

Don't care about me, I don't care about you.

Posted by: oilluted2 | July 20, 2010 3:34 PM | Report abuse

I believe the whole argument that unemployment benefits some how are "discouragement to individuals" to find a new job is based, partially, on an attitude towards the people who receive these benefits.

It was clearly outlined in the letter that was written to the NAACP by the Tea Party Express guy who was eventually ousted. The view that white people are working and being taxed to pay for out of work minorities.

If unemployment was at 16%+ for white folks, many in the Republican party would be singing a different tune.

Posted by: Quick2822 | July 20, 2010 3:37 PM | Report abuse

A Political Party that cares more about increasing the wealth of the super rich, than they do about making sure that an unemployed Mom can continue to support and nourish her children, is not Pro-Life. They are Pro-Birth only, and that man known as Jesus would have flayed their Hides off.

Posted by: Liam-still | July 20, 2010 3:40 PM | Report abuse


excellent point. i hope the dems and progressives point this out as the elections rapidly approach. they consider themselves the 'hard working' 'real americans' and believe that anyone to the left of scalia, especially if they're a minority, is an anti american parasite.

Posted by: blahgblogwordpresscom | July 20, 2010 3:44 PM | Report abuse

Liam and Mike...I am in total agreement with your comments about Lindsey Graham. I lived in S.C. when he was first elected to the U.S. House. While I disagree with many of his policy ideas, he has always struck me as someone who has become a bit uncomfortable with the likes of his fellow Senator Jim Demented and the rest of the mindless idealogues.

BTW I saw a town hall meeting of Grahams on the tube last year after he had supported "The wise latina" He was blistered by the tea bagging South Carolinians. The fact that he had the cojones to do it AGAIN does speak to his political courage...especially given that he represents a state full of certifiable crazies.

Posted by: rukidding7 | July 20, 2010 3:45 PM | Report abuse

All, my take on the Shirley Sherrod mess:

Posted by: Greg Sargent | July 20, 2010 3:47 PM | Report abuse

"And there are no studies I've seen showing that those who have lost their unemployment benefits have miraculously enjoyed better luck finding a job since."

And I'm sure that will remain the case as long as you continue to avoid looking.

"Sharp increases in the escape rate from unemployment both through recalls and new job acceptances are apparent for UI recipients around the time of benefits exhaustion. Such increases are not apparent at similar points of spell duration for nonrecipients. Second, our analysis of accurate administrative data from 12 states indicates 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."

Posted by: eggnogfool | July 20, 2010 4:31 PM | Report abuse

Carling et al., 1996

"Standard search theory as well as some empirical evidence suggest that an unemployed individual's probability of entering employment increases as he approaches the time when unemployment benefits are due to expire"

Stiglitz et. al, 1984

"we show that unemployment benefits (and other welfare benefits) increase the
equilibrium unemployment rate..."

DJ Snower, 1994

"Although unemployment benefit systems vary widely among OECD countries, they all tend to increase the unemployment whose effects they are meant to mitigate..."

Marimon et al., 1999

"Unemployment insurance has the standard effect of reducing employment..."

Posted by: eggnogfool | July 20, 2010 4:38 PM | Report abuse

Politically its not a smart argument to make right now. Factually the argument has merit.

In addition, the entire notion of "job locking" has many in America furious. We know that the Democrats will try to raise taxes. And now we know that some of this money taken from us will support folks who, as nancy pelosi suggests, become photographers or whatever rather than go to actual work. Great.

In the meantime the attempt by the liberals to cast anyone who disagrees with them as a racist rages on unabated. the government transfers about a trillion a year from productive people to non productive people via a plethora of welfare programs. Apparently that's still not enough.

Posted by: skipsailing28 | July 20, 2010 4:50 PM | Report abuse

LF Katz, 1990

"We also find that the probability of leaving unemployment both through
recalls and new job finding increases greatly around the time that UI benefits lapse "

Belzil, 2001
"...found a significant increase (spikes) in the escape rate out of unemployment when unemployment benefits lapse. This might suggest that search intensity increases substantially shortly before benefit termination..."

Anderson et al., 1993
"The second effect, known as the "entitlement" effect, raises the escape
rate from unemployment for workers who currently do not qualify for benefits and
for qualified workers close to exhaustion..."

BD Meyer, 1990
"As one gets closer to when benefits lapse, s is shown to increase, while w decreases as..."

Posted by: eggnogfool | July 20, 2010 4:54 PM | Report abuse

Breitbart is German for "big piece of scumsucking garbage."

Posted by: koolkat_1960 | July 20, 2010 4:58 PM | Report abuse

so Liam, why is that mom unemployed? what happened to her job? Why are you spending so much energy trying to give her someone else's money what what she really needs is a job?
Where are the jobs? Didn't Obama promise us 8% unemployment and no higher in exchange for an opportunity to spend almost a trillion? He got the money. Where are the results?

Posted by: skipsailing28 | July 20, 2010 5:11 PM | Report abuse

The ads, they write themselves. It's like fish in a barrel shooting themselves.

Posted by: CalD | July 20, 2010 5:11 PM | Report abuse

First Republicans blow up the engine and then crash the boat into an iceberg. Then they try to keep the democrats from loading the lifeboats and handing out life-jackets.

And Tancredo has the nerve to accuse Obama of being the worst enemy America has ever had?

Fera, Hatred, Distortion, Distraction and Division is all they have to offer.

Posted by: thebobbob | July 20, 2010 5:13 PM | Report abuse

"Didn't Obama promise us 8% unemployment"


Posted by: Ethan2010 | July 20, 2010 5:25 PM | Report abuse

More public TV interviews unearthed!

Posted by: Truthteller12 | July 20, 2010 5:48 PM | Report abuse

BTW, Angle has risen from the ashes and has rocketed back into a dead heat with Reid in the latest poll. Reid peaked last week.

Posted by: Truthteller12 | July 20, 2010 5:52 PM | Report abuse

I am saddened by Senator Burr's remarks on this subject. In many cases there are people who would suffer other than the job seekers. What about their children?

If we can afford a war based on the lie of weapons of mass destruction that has so far cost a trillion dollars and has taken the lives of more than 4000 American service people, and a million innocent Iraqi citizens, then certainly we can afford 35 billion to help hard working American's through these difficult times.

Posted by: lennykohm | July 20, 2010 5:58 PM | Report abuse

It simply is a fact that extending UE benefits encourage some people to stay unemployed. If you subsidize something, you get more of it. I know of a guy that has been unemployed since last August that said last week, "Well, I guess I'll find out if I have to really start looking for work next week". He's middle aged, single, has no major expenses and can get by on his UE benefits and enjoy himself thoroughly. He probably could get a job if he wanted, but at a much lower salary than he had previously (but more than UE). He has simply chosen to either wait until he can get a job at the salary he had before, or stay on UE until it runs out. I also know of others who work at home, collect UE and have no intention of getting a job once their benefits run out. Anecdotal to be sure, but the evidence is out there. Do I blame them? Not really, it is an entirely rational decision, but then again, everyone else is paying for their decision not to work where they may otherwise support themselves.

By the way, the GOP was not holding up the extension of benefits because they opposed the extension itself, they held it up to try to offset the cost by cutting in other areas or paying it out of unspent "stimulus". Funny how that point either goes unmentioned or is glossed over in much of the reporting.

Posted by: Hunter91 | July 20, 2010 6:55 PM | Report abuse

Keeping people on the dole didn't work in Ireland, or anywhere in the UK, and it won't help here. Also, we need many private sector jobs, not more bureaucrats. With current (and upcoming) taxes and restrictions there is little incentive for people to create new small businesses. Meanwhile the lame duck set in office will hurriedly push through cap and trade, amnesty and attempt to get net neutrality.

Posted by: carla_rash | July 20, 2010 11:35 PM | Report abuse

If your unemployment benefits are based on your last job, many people won't take a lower paying job because if they get laid off again they will get less. DUH!

Posted by: carla_rash | July 20, 2010 11:36 PM | Report abuse

Why do we even have unemployment insurance in the first place? If the GOP's right, there would be no unemployment if there were no unemployment insurance. Please JOIN US at GOPHypocrisy on Facebook:

Posted by: gophypocrisy | July 21, 2010 3:11 AM | Report abuse

With all due respect to the Senators, no one ever cares what the village idiot shouts out in the town square.

Posted by: hakafos44 | July 21, 2010 9:40 AM | Report abuse

To quote a famous Nobel Prize winning economics textbook author:

"Public policy designed to help workers who lose their jobs can lead to structural unemployment as an unintended side effect. . . . In other countries, particularly in Europe, benefits are more generous and last longer. The drawback to this generosity is that it reduces a worker's incentive to quickly find a new job. Generous unemployment benefits in some European countries are widely believed to be one of the main causes of "Eurosclerosis," the persistent high unemployment that affects a number of European countries."

From th economics textbook, Macroeconomics, by Krugman and Wells

Posted by: MadJayghawk1 | July 21, 2010 11:54 PM | Report abuse

Only an idiot would say that overly generous and extended jobless benefits does NOT increase unemployment.

Take, for example, teachers in Wisconsin. They could have forewent layoffs if they had accepted health insurance that most of us would drool over but did include copays. They turned it down knowing big brother would intervene.

Posted by: GiveMeThat | July 22, 2010 3:33 PM | Report abuse

I wonder if those serving in the Senate would like to go without their tax payer sponsored pay for a while. They talk about us not needing benefits and that is encourages laziness. I think we, as taxpayers, encourage our Senators to be lazy, don't you think? Nice full salaries when they retire, courtesy of the taxpayer and they have the hutzpa to treat us like kids, saying we will be lazy on unemployment benefits. Give me a job. I'll take it.

Posted by: thirdpartyvote | July 22, 2010 6:32 PM | Report abuse

Carla, most states base their unemployment amounts on the first four of the last five completed quarters before filing a claim so if you take a job and then are laid off again, your benefits will NOT go down during that year period.

Posted by: thirdpartyvote | July 22, 2010 6:35 PM | Report abuse

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