Yesterday, after weeks of ducking interviews with the mainstream press, Senate candidate Sharron Angle — who is running on the Republican ticket in Nevada — appeared on Face to Face with Nevada journalist Jon Ralston to clarify some of her positions, including her view that unemployment benefits should be cut because “spoiled” workers are living off of them instead of getting a job.
Ralston asked Angle what she meant by that statement, and Angle replied that there are plenty of jobs out there for the unemployed, but extended benefits are discouraging workers from reentering the workforce because they pay more than entry-level work does:
They keep extending these unemployment benefits to the point where people are afraid to go out and get a job because the job doesn’t pay as much as the unemployment benefit does. … What has happened is the system of entitlement has caused us to have a spoilage with our ability to go out and get a job. … There are some jobs out there that are available. Because they have to enter at a lower grade and they cannot keep their unemployment, they have to make a choice now.
Ralston then asked, “if people lose their jobs through no fault of their own, as many have during this recession, Sharron Angle’s solution is to cut their unemployment benefits so low so they’re somehow gonna go out and find jobs that don’t exist?” “There are jobs that do exist. That’s what we’re saying, is that there are jobs,” Angle replied. “But those are entry-level jobs.”
Angle’s clarification doesn’t make her position look any better, and her assertion that there a multitude of jobs available for the unemployed is simply rubbish. First, the average unemployment benefit is just $290 per week. There are nearly five workers actively searching for work for every job available, compared to 1.5 per job opening before the recession began. “That is incredibly unusual, so therefore it’s premature to give up on those emergency benefits,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody’s Economy.com.
In all, there are currently 15 million Americans unemployed, and almost half of them have been out of work for at least six months, which is a post-World War II record. As Heather Boushey, Luke Reidenbach, and Christine Riordan pointed out, “since the 1950s, federal unemployment insurance extensions remained in place during recessionary periods until unemployment dropped to as low as 5.0 percent. The highest unemployment rate at which these extensions were allowed to expire was 7.2 percent.” But Angle is sure that these benefits actively keep people from working, and if we only slashed them, employment would flourish.
Cross-posted at The Wonk Room.