In no uncertain terms, Rush Limbaugh (link will become unavailable in seven days) ripped into an Associated Press report today on the alleged perils of allowing unemployment benefits to expire for what the Labor Department says is nearly 2 million unemployed:
I have not had one class in economics since high school in the 1960s -- not one -- and I understand more about this through my own self-education than these wizards at the AP. And I'm still convinced they just repeated it. They just printed a fax from Pelosi's office or whatever. ... After 23 years and we still get trash like this in our major, #1 wire service. I guarantee you whoever wrote this story is an absolute, abject ignoramus. I don't know about you, folks, but I don't like being surrounded by stupidity.
The chief ignoramus in question whose name Rush didn't have is the misnamed AP Economics Writer Paul Wiseman, with the ignorant assistance of Christopher Rugaber. Behold their ignorance:
Cut-off of jobless aid would lower economic growth
If Congress lets unemployment benefits expire this week for the long-term unemployed, they won't be the only ones to feel the pain. The overall economy would suffer, too.
Unemployment benefits help drive the economy because the jobless tend to spend every dollar they get, pumping cash into businesses. A cut-off of aid for millions of people unemployed for more than six months could squeeze a fragile economy, analysts say. Among the consequences they envision over the next year:
- Annual economic growth could fall by one half to nearly 1 percentage point.
- Up to 1 million more people could lose their jobs.
- Hundreds of thousands would fall into poverty.
"Look for homelessness to rise and food lines to get longer as we approach Christmas if the situation can't be resolved," says Diane Swonk, chief economist at Mesirow Financial.
... That (unemployment) money ripples through the economy, into supermarkets, gasoline stations, utilities, convenience stores. That allows those businesses to hire more people, who, in turn, spend more money.
The Congressional Budget Office says every $1 spent on unemployment benefits generates up to $1.90 in economic growth. The program is the most effective government policy for generating growth among 11 options the CBO has analyzed.
Well, if that's the case, everyone should get unemployed and start collecting benefits. Economic growth will be off the charts. Give me a break.
Seriously now (take notes, Paul and Chris), very few if any businesses will make decisions to "hire more people, who, in turn, spend more money" based on a temporary extension of unemployment benefits. They'll only decide to do so when it becomes clear that overall conditions have significantly improved or very shortly will improve, and if real improvement seems like it is or shortly will be long-lived. Until then, they'll either try to get by with the staff they have and if necessary bring in temporary help to get through the somewhat busier times.
Extending unemployment benefits may or may not have the "multiplier effect" cited, but its effect on hiring is minimal at best, and the supposedly disastrous consequences for the economy by not extending benefits simply aren't credible. In fact, you could argue that ending unemployment benefits will motivate some (emphasis some) some who have been sitting on the sidelines to find work at some of the unfilled jobs that are out there (yes, there are some, even in this economy), thereby adding to GDP and possibly creating genuine economic growth.
The report Rush cited really represents what AP has come to stand for: Absolutely Pathetic.
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.