When it comes to economic policy, Paul Krugman thinks lawmakers should be two things: hardheaded and softhearted. In practice, that means people who make economic policy shouldn't kid themselves about the realities of the world, but that they also shouldn't forget their prescriptions have real-life consequences for real-life people. It's a balancing act of sorts, and it requires intelligence and compassion in equal measure.
Unfortunately for the millions of Americans suffering from long-term unemployment, Krugman argues, the GOP has got the equation completely wrong.
In his latest column for the New York Times, the best-selling author and award-winning economist accuses Senate Republicans of being "hardhearted" and "softheaded"and "fuzzy-minded" by repeatedly filibustering Democratic attempts to extend unemployment insurance for the million-plus Americans whose benefits have run out, though they still remain unemployed.
"[T]he long-term unemployed," Krugman writes, "are mainly victims of circumstances — ordinary American workers who had the bad luck to lose their jobs (which can happen to anyone) at a time of extraordinary labor market weakness, with three times as many people seeking jobs as there are job openings."
Yet the GOP seems either unaware of this fact or unconcerned. Singling out Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, Krugman claims that Republicans opposed to extending unemployment insurance "probably imagine that they’re being tough-minded and realistic." The reality, however, is that Paul and his fellow travelers are "peddling a fantasy at odds with all the evidence."
If you follow debates over unemployment, it’s striking how hard it is to find anyone on the Republican side even hinting at sympathy for the long-term jobless. Being unemployed is always presented as a choice, as something that only happens to losers who don’t really want to work. Indeed, one often gets the sense that contempt for the unemployed comes first, that the supposed justifications for tough policies are after-the-fact rationalizations.
The result is that millions of Americans have in effect been written off — rejected by potential employers, abandoned by politicians whose fuzzy-mindedness is matched only by the hardness of their hearts.