THEY DON’T LIKE WHAT THEY DON’T UNDERSTAND…. I’d have far more respect for Republican opposition to unemployment benefits if Republicans demonstrated a better understanding of the policy itself.

I don’t just mean confusion over the economic benefits, either. The evidence is overwhelming that jobless aid is very stimulative, a notion many on the right simply choose to ignore.

But that’s more a reflection of Republican confusion about economics. The real problem is with their failure to understand basic elements of the policy itself. Here was Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) last night on Fox News, complaining about the provisions of the tax deal that extended unemployment insurance benefits.

“I would prefer the insurance to be paid for, naturally. They weren’t going to pay for it. Let’s be honest about it — the Democrats have always won on unemployment insurance. It is well over 100 weeks now. There is no question people are suffering. I don’t want them to suffer.

“On the other hand, we also know there are people who could be working who won’t work because they’ve got unemployment insurance and they keep — don’t go out and start looking, especially jobs that might not be as good as what they had before. So these are all things that had to be worked out.”

This from the guy who wants to impose drug tests on those who’ve lost their jobs.

Note that Hatch believes unemployment aid is now “well over 100 weeks.” That’s patently false, and suggests Hatch went on national television to rail against a policy — one that’s been debated for months — without an understanding of the basics.

But what’s frustrating is how routine these errors are. Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) recently blasted an extension, saying the benefits are intended to help those “who have been collecting unemployment benefits for 99 weeks.” But that’s not even close to being true. Similarly, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) said an extension would add 13 weeks to a 99-week limit, which isn’t the policy at all. Huffington reported recently that other Republicans have struggled with the difference between extending benefits and reauthorizing benefits.

It’s one thing to have a debate with someone on the right, and run into ideological differences. But one can’t even get to the debate if one side struggles to understand the introductory details of the subject at hand.

Is it too much to ask that Republican lawmakers, responsible for helping shape federal policy, do a little homework?

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. 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.