The CBO, the GOP and Unemployment

As I predicted yesterday, Republicans have seized on the portion of the new CBO report on the impact of a minimum wage boost to $10.10 that suggests the risk of job losses alongside income gains. Indeed, they’re virtually lionizing CBO as a brave truth-teller that is confirming long-time conservative claims that the minimum wage (like every other government interference with the infinite wisdom of markets) is inherently a job-killer.

But as Jonathan Chait points out, touting CBO reports to grind this particular partisan ax is transparently perilous:

Republicans weeping for the half-million or so jobs that would be destroyed by a higher minimum wage would be shocked to learn that, according to the CBO, they have destroyed 200,000 jobs by blocking the extension of emergency unemployment benefits (which lift the incomes of destitute workers, creating higher demand). Likewise, the budget sequestration they have embraced as their cherished second-term Obama trophy has destroyed 900,000 jobs. What’s more, the CBO has maintained all along that the hated stimulus saved millions of jobs.

I’d add that the solicitude of Republicans for marginal job-holders also seems a bit strange following directly on the heels of GOP efforts to claim that Obamacare undermines workforce participation incentives. Aren’t we talking about lazy people who find living on the dole more attractive than working for a living? Ah, but that leads back to the core conservative argument that the economic and moral value of any particular job is infallibly set by markets. And most actual working people know otherwise.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.