Unemployment Myths, Busted

Do unemployment checks prolong the recession? To listen to some, sending those weekly checks just encourages people to sit at home watching videos on YouTube. But according to Les Leopold, author of The Looting of America, that’s patently wrong.

“We’re down 8 million since the start of the Great Recession. We aren’t even creating enough new jobs to keep up with population growth. So what jobs are the unemployed not taking?” he writes. “Economist Dean Baker suggests that the Republicans are trying to keep unemployment as high as possible right now because they think that high jobless numbers will spell disaster for the Democrats in November. And if we give the unemployed extended benefits, that money will act as a stimulus, generating more jobs. Well, we can’t have that!”

Besides, while it is true that some people use their unemployment checks for ill rather than gain, we can’t all be this guy.

Other myths Leopold tackles are the idea that people are simply too expensive to hire, thanks to benefits like health care and pensions, and the idea that the only “real” jobs worth creating are private sector.

On the benefits issue, well, Leopold concedes that companies could indeed save money by paying out fewer benefits to employees, but that it’s been shown that money saved doesn’t get invested into growth.

And the private sector ain’t really so private: “Has anyone noticed that private industry has been on the public dole for decades? We have millions of alleged private sector jobs funded by the Defense Department and through subsidies for industries from sugar to oil, and of course banking. We’ve given so many tax dodges to corporate America that most companies pay almost no taxes at all. The idea of a purely private sector is pure fiction, a soothing fairy tale for Tea Partiers and faith-based, free-market ideologues.”

So what do we do with this information? Take to the streets in protest? Write our senators? Or just cry into our pillows at night?