GOP just doesn’t like the unemployed

GOP JUST DOESN’T LIKE THE UNEMPLOYED…. Last week, Rep. Dean Heller (R) of Nevada expressed concern that the government is “creating hobos” by extending unemployment benefits. Around the same time, Rep. Steve King, a right-wing Republican from Iowa, explained his opposition to extended unemployment benefits: “We shouldn’t turn the ‘safety net’ into a hammock.”

And yesterday, we heard similar rhetoric from the Senate’s #2 Republican.

Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona, the Republican whip, argued that unemployment benefits dissuade people from job-hunting “because people are being paid even though they’re not working.”

Unemployment insurance “doesn’t create new jobs. In fact, if anything, continuing to pay people unemployment compensation is a disincentive for them to seek new work,” Kyl said during debate over whether unemployment insurance and other benefits that expired amid GOP objections Sunday should be extended.

Now, Kyl’s never been the sharpest crayon in the box, and his passive indifference to those suffering the effects of a brutal recession is consistent with his character. But as Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), not exactly a bold liberal, reminded his far-right colleague, unemployment benefits are actually a very effective stimulus: “He cited a Congressional Budget Office analysis that said the Gross Domestic Product grew $1.90 for every dollar the federal government paid out.”

Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research added, “It puts money into people’s pockets and they spend almost all of it. That creates jobs.”

But economics aside, this is nevertheless an illustrative moment, which voters should pay attention to. The Republican brand of “populism” is as callous as it is confused.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.