Do you believe that extending unemployment compensation benefits encourages some people to remain out of work longer than necessary? Don't let CNN anchor Ali Velshi find out. He'll characterize you as unsavory.
On a segment of CNN Newsroom today, Velshi spoke with an economics professor who's examined multiple studies reporting that many people find work shortly before their unemployment checks lapse:
VELSHI: Hey, complicated, complicated question that is at the root of our recovery as a nation; it is about jobs. The average person on unemployment is on it for about six months. You can get up to 99 weeks of unemployment benefits, with the certain extensions that we have passed these days. But the average person is on for about six months.
The question here is are long-term jobless benefits actually leading people to stay unemployed longer? I have somebody here who has actually crunched a few numbers for us. Robert Shimer is a professor of economics at the University of Chicago, and inadvertently has gotten himself piled in with a bunch of unsavories who say -- who like to make the argument that people are choosing not to get jobs. And Robert, you have heard it said. This is the US Chamber -- not the US Chamber of Commerce. I'm sorry, the Club for Growth has said it on this show that it is causing people -- that it's a disincentive for people to go back to work because of unemployment benefits, which I think is a little bit insulting to the millions of people on unemployment. Your argument is it a little bit more nuanced than that.
SHIMER: Well, there is strong words involved in things like disincentive and lazy and so on. I don't know that we have evidence of why these facts are facts. But there are, as I said before, a lot of studies that have looked at actually what happens when you give workers longer unemployment benefits. They also look at what happens to workers when they reach the end of their unemployment benefits. A lot of people do find a job in the last week or the week after the last week that -- when their benefits lapse.
Now whether that says anything about laziness or not, it does say, as a positive statement, that if we didn't have extended unemployment benefits, we would expect to see fewer unemployed workers.
Earlier in the interview Velshi said "there are some people that make a remarkable nonsensical argument that does implies that -- lazy is my word -- but that people are choosing to take the minuscule benefits that are offered on unemployment, and not having health care -- because most people can't afford to buy Cobra on their unemployment benefits -- instead of working."
On Twitter last month, Velshi wrote: "Club for Growth guest's suggestion was outrageous & I told him so on air. Suggesting people choose unemployment is offensive"
Outrageous. Offensive. Nonsensical. Insulting. A theory advanced by a bunch of unsavories. Perhaps Velshi should read "For the 'funemployed,' unemployment's welcomed," which appeared last year in the Los Angeles Times. The article noted:
Buoyed by severance, savings, unemployment checks or their parents, the funemployed do not spend their days poring over job listings. They travel on the cheap for weeks. They head back to school or volunteer at the neighborhood soup kitchen. And at least till the bank account dries up, they're content living for today.
The Club for Growth is a perfectly respectable organization. Founded by Stephen Moore and currently led by former Indiana Republican Congressman Chris Chocola, it helps elect candidates who agree with the group's stated philosophy that "the goal of tax policy should be to raise the amount of money needed to fund legitimate functions of government. . ." It has endorsed Senators Jim DeMint (R-SC) and Tom Coburn (R-OK) as well as Senate candidates Marco Rubio in Florida and Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania.
Including such an organization with "a bunch of unsavories" tells a great deal about Velshi, if we needed to know any more. Last month, he celebrated the anniversary of Obama's stimulus with a birthday cake on the air. "Happy birthday, dear stimulus," crooned Ali. Talk about unsavory. . .