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How addiction to power hands out abuse

August 4, 2020

Some key Krugman quotes:

He begins with this quote from B. Traven’s 1927 novel, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre: “Anyone who is willing to work and is serious about it will certainly find a job. Only you must not go to the man who tells you this, for he has no job to offer and doesn’t know anyone who knows of a vacancy. This is exactly the reason he gives you such generous advice, out of brotherly love, and to demonstrate how little he knows the world.”

Krugman: “It turns out [Traven] knew more about economics than any member of the modern G.O.P. caucus — a group whose members believe that cutting unemployment benefits and thus forcing people to seek jobs at all cost will somehow conjure more jobs into existence.”

“Today’s column was about the failure of Senate Republicans and the Trump administration to come up with any meaningful plan to deal with the expiration of special pandemic aid to the unemployed. Much recent economic research has investigated how much effect this aid had on incentives of workers to seek jobs, with the apparent answer being not much. As I argued, however, this question is largely irrelevant: no matter how hard workers look, they can’t take jobs that aren’t there.” More…

And from “Today’s column,” Aug. 3, 2020:

The cruelty and ignorance of Trump and his allies are creating another gratuitous disaster.

“In case you haven’t noticed, the coronavirus is still very much with us. Around a thousand Americans are dying from Covid-19 each day, 10 times the rate in the European Union. Thanks to our failure to control the pandemic, we’re still suffering from Great Depression levels of unemployment; a brief recovery driven by premature attempts to resume business as usual appears to have petered out as states pause or reverse their opening.

“Yet enhanced unemployment benefits, a crucial lifeline for tens of millions of Americans, have expired. And negotiations over how — or even whether — to restore aid appear to be stalled.

“You sometimes see headlines describing this crisis as a result of “congressional dysfunction.” Such headlines reveal a severe case of bothsidesism — the almost pathological aversion [addiction to symmetry!] of some in the media to placing blame where it belongs.

“For House Democrats passed a bill specifically designed to deal with this mess two and a half months ago

“Republicans, however, have shown no sign of understanding any of this. The policy proposals being floated by White House aides and advisers are almost surreal in their disconnect from reality. Cutting payroll taxes on workers who can’t work? Letting businesspeople deduct the full cost of three-martini lunches they can’t eat? …

“Above all, Republicans seem obsessed with the idea that unemployment benefits are making workers lazy and unwilling to accept jobs.

“This would be a bizarre claim even if unemployment benefits really were reducing the incentive to seek work. After all, there are more than 30 million workers receiving benefits, but only five million job openings. No matter how harshly you treat the unemployed, they can’t take jobs that don’t exist.

“It’s almost a secondary concern to note that there’s almost no evidence that unemployment benefits are, in fact, discouraging workers from taking jobs. Multiple studies find no significant incentive effect...

“So the attack on unemployment aid is rooted in deep ignorance. But there’s also a strong element of malice.” Krugman muses earlier in the op-ed, “Well, I’m of two minds. Was it ignorant malevolence, or malevolent ignorance?” Understandable question, but I would place it more in the medical category of addiction to absolutes. But Krugman has long pointed out that this malice goes back to the old fixation on the excuse of ills attributed to the perennial criminal and lower classes.

“Republicans have a long history of suggesting that the jobless are moral failures — that they’d rather sit home watching TV than work. And the Trump years have been marked by a relentless assault on programs that help the less fortunate, from Obamacare to food stamps. As Oliver twist might ask, More?…

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