Unemployment Benefits Cut Will Worsen Things.

CalculatedRiskBlog reports:

Here is a depressing report from the National Employment Law Project: States Made Unprecedented Cuts to Unemployment Insurance in 2011

NELP’s new analysis shows that in 2011, six states cut the maximum number of weeks that jobless workers can receive unemployment insurance to less than 26 weeks—a threshold that had served as a standard for all 50 states for more than half a century, until this year. Michigan, Missouri, and South Carolina cut their available weeks down to 20; Arkansas and Illinois cut down to 25; and Florida cut to between 12 and 23 weeks, depending on the state’s unemployment rate. Double-digit unemployment in Michigan, South Carolina, and Florida did not discourage lawmakers there from making the cuts.

… Indiana changed the formula it uses to calculate weekly benefit amounts so that the average unemployment check will drop from $283 to $220 a week.

Ouch.
This makes things worse.  It increases the risk of  another drop in GDP.  See, when people who have been getting unemployment benefits have their benefits cut, they cut their spending.  That means some businesses are selling less stuff. Those businesses in turn layoff more workers, or at best case avoid hiring new ones.
As for the argument that people who get unemployment benefits avoid working just to get the benefits, there’s two responses.  First, even by the micro-economic models and theories so beloved by conservatives, it’s totally irrational to do so.  I mean, do you really believe people pass up opportunities to have $48,000 a year or more (median household income) in order to collect $8,000 (maximum unemployment benefits for 26 weeks)?  No, it’s totally irrational.  Second, cutting unemployment benefits to try to get people to have jobs is essentially punishing the unemployed. If there are no jobs to be had, it makes no difference how much we punish them.  They can’t get a job.  The beatings will continue until morale improves.

Congressional – FAIL economics

In a previous post I noted that members of Congress usually don’t understand economics at a level to even pass a Principles Econ 201 or 202 course.  More proof from Pat Garafalo of Think Progress.  Apparently Rep. Shadegg of Arizona, a Republican representative for at least 5 years doesn’t understand that consumer spending is essential to the creation of jobs.  He believes that maintaining spending by unemployed people doesn’t have any positive effect on the economy.  Instead he believes in some kind of mythic “job creators” in our economy who apparently create jobs without any consideration of being able to sell what is produced by the workers!  Of course maybe the Congressman is simply a little behind in his reading.  I mean we only figured out this concept of a circular flow and the need for consumer spending to exist for there to be jobs recently, as in, oh, 1829 at the latest.

Rep. Shadegg Scoffs At The Fact That Jobless Benefits Are A Benefit To The Economy: ‘No, They’re Not!’

Unless Congress acts today, unemployment benefits will expire for 2.5 million Americans, with unemployment above nine percent and five unemployed workers competing for every available job opening. If Congress, as expected, does nothing, this will be first time in the last forty years that benefits have expired with unemployment so high.

According to calculations by the Congressional Budget OfficeMoody’s Economy, and myriad other economists, unemployment benefits are the single best way to pump money into the economy and generate economic activity, as the unemployed are very likely to spend all of the benefits they receive (thus moving money into local businesses). But during an interview with MSNBC’s Mike Barnicle today, Rep. John Shadegg (R-AZ) scoffed at the notion that unemployment benefits help the economy. “Unemployed people hire people? Really? I didn’t know that,” Shadegg jeered:

BARNICLE: What about the fact that unemployment benefits pumped into the economy are an immediate benefit to the economy? Immediate…

SHADEGG: No, they’re not! Unemployed people hire people? Really? I didn’t know that.

BARNICLE: Unemployed people spend money Congressman, ’cause they have no money.

SHADEGG: Aha! So your answer is it’s the spending of money that drives the economy and I don’t think that’s right. It’s the creation of jobs that drives the economy…Actually, the truth is the unemployed will spend as little of that money as they possibly can. Job creators create jobs.

BARNICLE: Have you ever been unemployed? Have you ever been unemployed?

SHADEGG: Yes, I have.

BARNICLE: What did you do with the money? Save it?

Watch it:

At the same time that he was dumping on the unemployed, Shadegg called for extending all of the Bush tax cuts without paying for them, joining a slew of Republican lawmakerswho care more about tax cuts for the very wealthy than unemployed Americans about to lose the last strand of safety net that they have available.

Shadegg never managed to explain why all of the job creators he cites would create any jobs if households aren’t spending money. In that vein, MarketPlace noted today that “when unemployment checks stop, it’s felt right away by businesses like gas stations, apartment operators, and grocery stores.” And as the Center for American Progress’ Heather Boushey and Jordan Eizenga found, “the workers losing benefits have an average weekly benefit of a little over $290 per week, which translates into a total loss of about $2.5 billion dollars in benefits over December. This is equal to about one in seven dollars of the gain in retail sales seen between December 2008 and December 2009.”