At the start of the New Year, unemployment benefits for those who’ve been unemployed for more than six months were cut. Both Sen. Harry Reid and President Obama have addressed those who’ve lost their benefits—most likely with no good job prospect in sight—through the media, saying that they will “push” Congress to extend these federal booster benefits that have been in place since the earliest days of the Great Recession.
During an appearance on ABC’s This Week, Kentucky Republican Senator Rand Paul doubled down on his libertarian-cum-conservative ways suggesting that the benefits should expire because unemployment benefits make people lazy.
On the show, Paul wouldn’t go so far as to say he was “for” unemployment benefits, but employed the type of political double-speak that we can come to expect with the 2014 mid-terms looming saying, “I am not against unemployment benefits (emphasis added).”
He then clarified, “I do think, though, that the longer you have it, that it does provide some disincentive to work and that there are many studies that indicate this,” an idea that clearly reflects an ignorance of the realities faced by people who rely on these benefits that are finite by definition. Following Paul’s appearance, Senator Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) rebutted Paul’s claims, calling them “insulting.”
On the show Paul said “numerous studies” have already proven his point, but declined to the name them. A few weeks ago, when Paul cited research by economist Rand Ghayad as the most recent evidence that benefits make people lazy, Ghayad responded.
Writing for The Atlantic, Ghayad says that Paul couldn’t be reading his results more wrongly. Ghayad’s research showed that employers were hesitant to hire people who are out of work for more than six months. “But just because companies discriminate against the long-term unemployed,” Ghayad writes, “doesn’t mean long-term benefits are to blame.”
The current unemployment rate of 7 percent is less than it was, but this number often does not count the long-term unemployed. While the economy might be improving on the macro level, the pangs of the Recession are still being felt by millions of individuals without a safety net.