Krugman: 'Heartless, Clueless and Confused' GOP Block Unemployment Benefits

New York Times columnist Paul Krugman is angry the Senate hasn't once again extended unemployment benefits, and he's blaming "heartless, clueless and confused" Republicans.

"There was a time when everyone took it for granted that unemployment insurance, which normally terminates after 26 weeks, would be extended in times of persistent joblessness. It was, most people agreed, the decent thing to do," the Nobel laureate wrote Monday.

"Yet the Senate went home for the holiday weekend without extending benefits. How was that possible?" asked Krugman.

Unfortunately, his answer will be quite disturbing to most on the right:

[W]e're facing a coalition of the heartless, the clueless and the confused. Nothing can be done about the first group, and probably not much about the second. But maybe it's possible to clear up some of the confusion. 

By the heartless, I mean Republicans who have made the cynical calculation that blocking anything President Obama tries to do - including, or perhaps especially, anything that might alleviate the nation's economic pain - improves their chances in the midterm elections. Don't pretend to be shocked: you know they're out there, and make up a large share of the G.O.P. caucus.

By the clueless I mean people like Sharron Angle, the Republican candidate for senator from Nevada, who has repeatedly insisted that the unemployed are deliberately choosing to stay jobless, so that they can keep collecting benefits. [...]

But there are also, one hopes, at least a few political players who are honestly misinformed about what unemployment benefits do - who believe, for example, that Senator Jon Kyl, Republican of Arizona, was making sense when he declared that extending benefits would make unemployment worse, because "continuing to pay people unemployment compensation is a disincentive for them to seek new work."

In reality, Krugman is the clueless and confused person in this discussion, as well as disingenuous.

Utilizing his classic bias by omission strategy, he led readers to believe that the unemployed haven't gotten any benefits extensions up to this point, and that Republicans have been blocking them for years,

But nothing can be further from the truth. As the Wall Street Journal reported in November:

The latest extension of unemployment benefits couldn't come at a better time, it seems; President Barack Obama signed legislation into law Friday providing an additional 14 to 20 weeks of benefits for those who have already exhausted theirs or will do so by year-end.

The extension comes on the same day the Labor Department announced the U.S. unemployment rate hit 10.2% in October, crossing into double-digits for the first time in 26 years as the nation's jobless swelled to 15.7 million.

The bill, passed earlier this week by both the Senate and the House of Representatives, extends federal jobless benefits by 14 weeks for Americans in all 50 states who face exhaustion before year-end, and by 20 weeks for those living in states where the unemployment rate is 8.5% or higher.

And here's the inconvenient truth Krugman and his ilk want to hide as they point fingers at "heartless, clueless and confused" Republicans:  

The additional 20 weeks in hard-hit states means the maximum a person in one of those states could receive is now up to 99 weeks, or nearly two years - the most in history.

That's right: some unemployed Americans have been receiving benefits for almost two years, and that is longest in our nation's history.

Kind of tramples Krugman's "heartless" position, doesn't it?

Taking this a step further, the Welfare Reform Act of 1996 stipulated that most adult welfare recipients have to find work within two years of the start of their benefits.

This means that in theory, even our nation's poor are required to find jobs at some point in the future.  

Shouldn't that apply to folks across all income strata?

In the end, Republicans as a whole aren't typically against extending unemployment benefits when economic conditions warrant such action. In this instance, GOPers like Massachusetts' Scott Brown just wanted the cost to come from stimulus funds rather than just add to the debt.

This was something else Krugman chose to omit from his finger-pointing. 

On another theoretical note, two years seems like a fine deadline to give people to find a job.

After all, despite the contention by the Left that this is the worst recession since the Depression, unemployment still hasn't risen to levels we saw in the early '80s.

With this in mind, why should unemployment benefits last longer now than they did then?

Sadly, the clueless and confused Krugman didn't answer that question.

Color me unsurprised. 

Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard, Associate Editor of NewsBusters, passed away in March of 2014.