By now everyone — or those who still have a television or radio or computer — has heard and seen or read about Arizona Senator Jon Kyl’s philosophy on how unemployment benefits extensions are a “disincentive” to the unemployed to find work. Kyl’s statement became a YouTube viral video and even became the focus of Jon Stewart’s sarcasm on Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show.” As well it should, considering that the unemployed receive, on average, a monthly compensation check that amounts to approximately $1,200, which would, if the recipient was fortunate enough, cover perhaps a car payment and rent (or mortgage). But, Jon Kyl’s out-of-touch statement about the unemployed was given support Monday afternoon — by Jon Kyl.
Outside the Senate chambers in Washington, Senator Jon Kyl told a group of reporters, according to Talking Points Memo, that the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) had been wrong before. Dismissing the accumulated opinions of numerous economists and the CBO that unemployment benefits extensions are a strong stimulus during a recession, Kyl said:
“It’s not a stimulus for the economy, to try to help people through tough times. It’s a necessary evil, in a sense. We’d like not to have to raise revenue in order to pay people for not working–or not to pay them for not working, but because they can’t get work.”
A necessary evil. A program paid for through unemployment taxes on businesses and insured through taxpayer dollars, existing to provide assistance — a financial bridge — for the unemployed individual, who lost his job through no fault of his own (i.e., they did not quit or were not fired), between periods of employment (read: unemployment) is a necessary evil. It is evil, apparently because it provides a “disincentive” for the unemployed to not work.
According to Kyl, not only are unemployment benefits extensions a “necessary evil,” they are not a “stimulus for the economy.” Forget that, if those extensions are not made to just the 2 million people currently in limbo due to their benefits extensions being cut off, they will not only be jobless, but homeless, vehicle-less, utilities-less, etc., which also further deflates the economy by not continuing the basic payments to the landlords, utility companies, and banks — which, in turn, causes more lay-offs, more unemployed individuals, which, sometime in the future could become another taxpayer who is long-term unemployed (27 weeks or longer) in need of a benefits extension. Forget that those same unemployment benefits checks have taxes deducted from them, taxes that pay for government programs and government employee salaries, salaries like Senator Jon Kyl’s $174,000 per year paycheck.
Even if one were to forego the illogic and the poor choice of descriptive words, another of Senator Kyl’s phrases puts him on the wrong side of the known facts. He notes that the government would like to not raise revenue “in order to pay people for not working — or not pay them for not working, but because they can’t get work.”
This dismisses the fact that unemployment compensation and insurance is designed specifically to pay people while they are not working (ignoring the implied insult that the unemployed are being paid for not working, as if it were their choice for being laid off, downsized, streamlined, or unemployed via company bankruptcies and shut-downs). It also ignores the Department of Labor’s estimates of available jobs as opposed to those jobseekers applying for jobs, a ratio of one job per every five jobseekers. Kyl notes that it would be better to pay the unemployed “because they can’t get work.” According to the government — of which Senator Kyl is a longstanding member — four out of every five unemployed people fit the description of those for whom he would be willing to grant unemployment benefits extensions. Besides, the one out of five will be employed again and will not need benefits.
Although Senator Jon Kyl and his fellow Republicans talk of refusing to vote for the $33.5 billion unemployment extension measure due to national deficit worries, Senator Kyl and his colleagues have had no problems voting for legislation amounting to hundreds of billions of dollars for two wars that increase the national deficit exponentially due to the fact that they are not offset with “raised revenues.” And it must be asked: Just how does pulling several billions of dollars out of the economy at the most basic level, the consumer spending of the unemployed on their basic needs, help the economy in any way? And forcing the long-term unemployed into positions of government assistance benefits the economy and the national deficit in just what manner?
Perhaps Senator Kyl would care to explain how denying 2 million individuals extended unemployment benefits, the current estimate from the Department of Labor of those having lost benefits since June 2, is an economic stimulus to them and their respective families.