The right wing seems to think that the political climate in the U.S. is ripe at the present moment for getting rid or at least drastically scaling back unemployment insurance. I hope they are wrong and that general public sentiment is not represented by the Tea Party types who so dominant the news coverage by both those who approve (fox news) and those who disapprove (msnbc left of center prime time).

Stopping the extension of unemployment insurance payments for the long term unemployed is all upside for the republicans and conservatives.

First it throws 1.2 million people into dire straits that will help put even more downward pressure on wages, not only for those forced to take poverty level jobs in lieu of unemployment, but also for those still in jobs, whose position becomes just that much more tenuous and thus vulnerable to employer pressure.

But even more importantly, throwing long term unemployed off unemployment in really bad economic times will appear to “work” as a tactic for reducing unemployment. Those receiving unemployment must actively seek work to receive their checks, by actively seeking work they fit the labor department’s official definition of unemployment. But once the checks stop and the pressure from unemployment offices to seek work, within weeks, those in areas where there are no jobs (which is most of the country right now), will soon become discouraged. People don’t keep on actively seeking work when there is no work to be had, unless they are required to do so to get unemployment. When their active work search stops, they don’t have a job, but they also no longer fit the official definition of unemployed, and by magic the unemployment rate will decline. Of course the number of people employed doesn’t rise, and the labor force declines, but most people don’t understand the way in which unemployment numbers are created.

Within months the republicans will be able to point to the declining unemployment numbers and say “see our strategy of cutting people off of unemployment insurance works — unemployment has declined.” Democrats will of course, try to educated the public, explaining about discouraged workers and declining size of the labor force, but it will be for nought. That strategy didn’t work well in 1985-86 when official unemployment under Ronald Reagan finally began to drop below 10 percent. The average person doesn’t want to know that official unemployment numbers are really not a very good indicator of the economic health of society.

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