Browsing the blog archivesfor the day Saturday, December 28th, 2013.

A Hard Rain Is Gonna Fall

Obama Administration

This week 1.3 million people will be losing unemployment benefits, which will be a disaster for them (just as food stamps are going away, too) and a drag on the economy overall.

WaPo has a map showing where the people losing benefits live. Wow, New Jersey is about to get slammed. What’s up with that, Gov. Christie? Hasn’t yelling at schoolteachers created more jobs?

One person happy about the loss of benefits is Paul Ryan, who seems to sincerely believe that cutting people off of benefits will inspire them to get jobs that aren’t actually there.

Ryan has always defended his stinginess on safety net issues as tough love for the poor, giving them “incentives” to take a job, any job, to support their families.

“We have an incentive-based system where people want to get up and make the most of their lives, for themselves and their kids,” he says. “We don’t want to turn this safety net into a hammock that ends up lulling people in their lives into dependency and complacency. That’s the big debate we’re having right now.”

Now, where have we heard this before? Timothy Egan remembers.

When a million Irish died during the Great Famine of the 1850s, many in the English aristocracy said the peasants deserved to starve because their families were too big and indolent. The British baronet overseeing food relief felt that the famine was God’s judgment, and an excellent way to get rid of surplus population. His argument on relief was the same one used by Rand Paul.

“The only way to prevent the people from becoming habitually dependent on government is to bring the operation to a close,” Sir Charles Trevelyan said about the relief plan at a time when thousands of Irish a day were dropping dead from hunger.

(I understand the one million figure is a conservative estimate. And the Irish were growing plenty of food in Ireland. They just weren’t allowed to eat it.)

Ryan always strikes me as being possibly less bright than a bag of hammers. But, still, there’s something particularly galling to me when someone with an Irish surname takes up this “tough love for the indolent poor” crusade.

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