This is Criminal

Matt Yglesias catches a lot of flack from folks on both the Right and the Left for everything from his faulty prose to his sometimes ill-conceived ideas. I will admit to finding Yglesias’s work occasionally too rich-kiddy Neoliberal for my tastes, but there’s a reason he’s been paid to write about economic policy by many publications for as long as he has: he’s very good at quickly getting to what’s important. His latest piece on unemployment insurance is a perfect example of this. If reading this simple take on what the Ryan-Murray budget will do to the long-term unemployed doesn’t make you want to move to Sweden (or Switzerland), I don’t know what will.

It is especially important for articles like this to make the rounds in the wake of Rand Paul’s odious suggestion that we should cut off unemployment benefits after 28 weeks to light a fire under the lazy 47%ers who are mooching off the system (and voting Democrat). Rand Paul mouthing off like this is not surprising, but given his father’s bizarre appeal to a small segment of young voters, it is worth worrying about. Paul the Younger is a major voice within the GOP and presumptive candidate for the party’s 2016 presidential nomination. In his mind, ending unemployment is really just a question of eliminating the pretty minimally humane incentives we extend to people who happened to get thrown off the electric kool-aid acid bus of capitalism. It’s unemployment insurance that’s preventing these people from bootstrapping themselves into the middle (and may even the upper!) class. This is nonsense, and many smart people have said as much, but it’s important that sites like Slate, which caters to younger readers, put things as bluntly as possible:

Mailing unemployment insurance checks to people who aren’t so much unemployed as unemployable is obviously not an ideal public policy. But simply doing nothing for them is cruel and insane… We’re going to do nothing. We’re going to tell people to go out and look for work, even though employers looking to hire can still afford to be very choosy and generally refuse to even consider the long-term unemployed as job applicants. The country failed these people first by letting the labor market stay so slack for so long that they became unhirable, and now we’re going to fail them again.

Matt Yglesias may not be the prose stylist David Foster Wallace was, but he doesn’t have to be in order to point out the cruel insanity that’s ruling the Republican Party, and that’s apparently infected the Democrats as well. People who can’t find work are simply screwed under this new budget, and if folks like Rand Paul get their way, anyone unlucky enough to be unemployed for even six months (and I know many people who’ve experienced this) will be too.


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