The GOP Embraces Its Inner Grinch

Republican opposition to extending unemployment benefits is cold-hearted and wrong-headed.

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Even if you accept the Paul Ryan logic, it doesn't bear up given the facts of the economy. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the ratio of job seekers to job openings as of October was 2.9-to-1; that's down from the recession high of 6.2-to-1 but it's still more than the 1.8-to-1 at the recession's start. Dependency and complacency aren't keeping the unemployed off payrolls. A lack of jobs is.

[See a collection of political cartoons on the economy.]

Are there any cost-effective ways to boost the job market? The Congressional Budget Office estimates that a one-year extension of unemployment benefits would increase GDP by 0.2 percent and add something like 200,000 jobs. Conversely, according to the Council on Economic Advisers, failing to extend could cost 240,000 jobs and drop GDP by 0.2 percent to 0.4 percent.

What now? Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has promised to push for a retroactive extension of unemployment benefits when the Senate reconvenes next month. Van Hollen argues that if House-Senate negotiators produce an acceptable farm bill (an open question), Congress should use the savings – expected to be at least $15 billion – to pay for an extension. "One of the first orders of business should be extending unemployment compensation," he says.

We'll see whether enough House Republicans go along with that play. If they do maybe the party's heart will grow three sizes that day.

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