Dueling Editorials on Unemployment Benefits

The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal take classically opposing sides

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While Democrats and Republicans face off over extending jobless benefits, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal are doing the same. On Tuesday, the rival papers espouse two classic opposing sides of the issue.

The New York Times editorial board is incensed that Republicans are attempting to block benefits Americans sorely need: "Never mind that so many Americans need the help to hold on to their homes or keep their families fed," they write. "Never mind that the economy needs the spending to counter what would otherwise be a devastating slump in consumer demand--and more joblessness as a result." The Wall Street Journal editors meanwhile quote some of Obama's own advisors, including Larry Summers, to argue these benefits do more harm than good. Unemployment benefits create a disincentive to work, they argue:
Mr. Summers is merely reflecting what numerous economic studies have shown. The Federal Reserve Open Market Committee put it this way in its January minutes: "The several extensions of emergency unemployment insurance benefits appeared to have raised the measured unemployment rate, relative to levels recorded in past downturns." It continued: "Some estimates suggested it could account for 1 percentage point or more of the increase in the unemployment rate during the recession." ... If Republicans were really cynical, they'd let the new benefits pass and run against the higher jobless rate in the fall.
Of course, this isn't the Republican plan, as the Journal notes. Instead, the GOP is attacking the benefits extension because it will increase the deficit. The New York Times has a handy rejoinder to this, offering two ways to offset the cost of unemployment benefits before concluding:

Unless something is done to address the deficit, the American economy will be hobbled for generations to come. But denying benefits to the unemployed is the wrong place to start.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.