First, Republicans were given lessons on how to talk to women while denying them reproductive services. Now, they’re learning how to talk to the long-term unemployed and their families while denying them benefits.
As members of the Republican Party fight against extending unemployment insurance to those who have been out of work for more than 26 weeks, the party’s leadership is circulating talking points on the best language to use when discussing such opposition, the Washington Post reports. The goal is to show compassion, but some of the talking points come off as tone deaf.
“Washington has lost its priorities,” reads one, “if it’s more focused on making unemployment easier to tolerate than it is getting people back to work and restoring independence all together.”
Of course, there’s no reason that “Washington” — or, rather, the politicians therein — needs to choose one or the other: Unemployment benefits can be extended while the legislature works on a more comprehensive solution for getting the economy back on track. Indeed, it’s estimated that extending unemployment benefits would save 240,000 jobs through a combination of increasing consumer spending and keeping people looking for work, something that would be buoy the economy as a whole. Even conservative news outlet National Review recognizes the exceptionally high rate of long-term unemployed and the incentive of asking people to look for work in order to get their benefits is a boon to the economy. Studies show that people on unemployment benefits look harder for work, keeping them in the labor force.
The memo goes on to give ideas for pushback to common arguments in favor of extending unemployment benefits. Confronted with the fact that studies show any disincentive for finding a new job created by unemployment insurance is minimal at best, Republican lawmakers are instructed to cite North Carolina — a state that “has seen it’s [sic] unemployment rate fall a full percentage point and a half” since it ended its Emergency Unemployment Compensation program.
But Republican leadership picked the wrong example. North Carolina has actually experienced pain from cutting off its long-term unemployment benefits. While the number of people receiving benefits did plummet when they cut their program, saving the government money, people began to leave the labor force in droves, probably a result of the fact that people had no incentive, as they did when receiving benefits, to go out and actively look for work. The state’s food pantries are also strapped for resources since the benefits ended.
On Tuesday, the Senate voted to end debate on a bill that would extend unemployment benefits, but there is no guarantee the bill itself will pass through the chamber. Either way, the effort may be doomed: House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has said that he will not bring the bill to the floor unless it’s paid for by budget cuts.