Sunday, May 10, 2009

What 'better jobs'?

Every time conservatives open their mouths these days they confirm how wise the American electorate was to boot them from power in the last two election cycles.

In a piece about what it describes as a patchwork system of social programs for the needy, the New York Times quotes a Heritage Foundation flack named Stuart Butler on why social programs are a bad idea during a recession.

Aid programs spend hundreds of billions of dollars and reach tens of millions of people; the food stamp program alone covers more than one in 10 Americans. Yet the safety net leaves few camps satisfied. Liberals say programs are weak compared with other rich countries and are overly deferential to states. Conservatives fault costs and complexity and warn that aid can do harm.

With generous programs “you could be discouraging people from seeking better jobs,” said Stuart Butler of the Heritage Foundation.
What 'better jobs' is he talking about?

The unemployment rate is almost 9 percent. Nearly 14 million people are out of work. Even though the rate of job loss has slowed due to President Obama's stimulus strategy, the economy is still losing more than 500,000 jobs a month.

Yet the Heritage Foundation thinks the problem is that unemployment benefits and food stamps are sapping people's motivation to "seek better jobs." What planet do these people come from where good, well-paying jobs grow on trees and all you have to do is go out and pick one?

Conservatism is a bankrupt, impotent movement that has failed to meet the felt needs of the people that it seeks to serve. Its failures are manifest and are the direct result of its slavish devotion to disproved ideas.

But our establishment media outlets still deem these ideas worthy of consideration. The New York Times included Butler's assertion about the harm posed by generous social programs and left it completely unchallenged, as though its validity is beyond dispute. They didn't even require him to explain what he meant. He was simply allowed to assert that aid to the needy during a recession of historical magnitude is a bad thing, and the Times was willing to take his word for it.

It would be laughable if it wasn't so dangerous.

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