“Let Them Eat Want Ads”

Delaware congressional candidate Michele Rollins. Flickr/<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/disasterphotog/4697564473/">Lou Angeli Digital</a>

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Following in the footsteps of Nevada conservative Sharron “the unemployed are spoiled” Angle, another GOPer, Delaware congressional candidate Michele Rollins, recently claimed that jobless benefits make people “continue to do nothing.” Ouch. Via Greg Sargent, the Democratic National Committee got Norris, who’s running for Republican Mike Castle’s open House seat, on tape saying this:

“I know this is a bad market and a very bad time. But you just cannot keep paying people, cannot keep taxing us to pay people to do nothing, because they will continue to do nothing for a very long time.”

Any chance of Rollins winning over the 8.5 percent of Delaware citizens who are unemnployed just plummeted. Indeed, I’ll bet that those 37,000 or so jobless people in her state would take offense to her claim that unemployment insurance is the same as “pay[ing] people to do nothing” and that aid makes people “do nothing for a long time.” I’ll bet most of them would tell Rollins they’re sending out resumes every week, showing up at job fairs, dropping in on employers to ask about openings—hardly sitting around and continuing “to do nothing.”

The very premise of Rollins’ belief about unemployment aid—that it makes people “continue to do nothing for a very long time”—is factually wrong. As Harvard economist Raj Chetty has found, unemployment aid almost always is not a disincentive to finding a new job. And in the few instances where aid does somewhat prolong the duration of unemployment, it’s not because some mom or dad found their check in the mail and got lazy; it’s because that dad, who’d stopped spending time with his family or keeping up on medical appointments or going grocery shopping because he was looking for work nonstop, can now afford to see his kids once in a while. All told, Chetty says, general economic well-being increases when the unemployed receive aid. (For a thorough debunking of the jobless-aid-makes-people-lazy meme, I recommend watching Chetty’s two-part presentation, here and here.)

Seeing as this bloc of jobless-aid bashers—Angle, Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), Wisconsin GOP Senate candidate Ron Johnson—continues to grow, Greg Sargent has crowned them the “Let Them Eat Want Ads” Caucus. T-shirts, anyone?

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