Screwing the unemployed

It’s because of funding time bombs like this that Obama’s self-created crisis may end up screwing the long-term unemployed. That’s what happens when you give into Republican extortionists, and the fatal mistake is assuming they’re going to negotiate good faith. Obama should have taken Clinton’s advice, asserted executive power under the Constitution and told them all to kiss his ass. But of course he didn’t:

More than 40% of the nearly five million Americans who receive unemployment insurance are set to lose those benefits if federal programs expire as scheduled at year-end.


Some economists worry that cutting off those benefits could harm the economy by leaving millions of Americans with less money to spend on everything from food to fuel. Others argue that overly generous benefits are helping to prolong joblessness.


About 2.1 million Americans receive payments through federally backed emergency unemployment programs, which Congress adopted starting in 2008 as a temporary supplement to state-level programs funded primarily with taxes on employers, which generally offer six months of benefits. That number has tumbled from more than 3.5 million at the start of the year and a peak of more than six million in early 2010, reflecting not just the gradual improvement of the job market but also new limits that have pushed hundreds of thousands of workers off the rolls before they could find jobs.


Already this year, hundreds of thousands of people have exhausted their jobless benefits. Now, virtually everyone left in the federal programs would lose their benefits if the programs expire as scheduled at year-end.


Congress has repeatedly extended unemployment benefits amid high joblessness, and it could do so again. But the programs have gotten caught up in the fight over the “fiscal cliff,” a package of tax increases and spending cuts due to take effect early next year. Some Democrats are pushing to extend benefits again, but the programs must contend not only with Republican opposition but also competing priorities such as business and individual tax breaks.

Conservatives: Bad at complex thinking

Interesting studies. Whenever I argue with a conservative, I always end up saying in frustration, “But it’s not that simple!” It appears that for some people, their inability to reason out complex ideas is what makes them conservatives, and not their hatred of the human race (although there may be some overlap there)! What do you think?

Good news for conservatives as a compilation of four recent social psychology studies demonstrate that rather than necessarily being pathological, political conservatism is promoted when people rely on low-effort thinking.


In the four studies conducted by Scott Eidelman, Christian S. Crandall, Jeffrey A. Goodman, and John C. Blanchar published by the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, Inc, they concluded, “(P)olitical conservatism is promoted when people rely on low-effort thinking. When effortful, deliberate responding is disrupted or disengaged, thought processes become quick and efficient; these conditions promote conservative ideology… low-effort thought might promote political conservatism because its concepts are easier to process, and processing fluency increases attitude endorsement.”


In other words, complex thinking makes their heads hurt, so they don’t do it!

Ever wonder why conservatives can’t seem to understand that people are not always to blame for the circumstances they find themselves in? While personal responsibility sounds like it makes perfect sense initially, when you walk people through the various life circumstances that can render people temporarily dependent upon government help, it becomes clear that things are not so simple. These studies demonstrate the impact of correctional/effortful explanations on political ideology, “This analysis also suggests that some forms of political ideology may result from intentional and effortful correction. For example, Wänke and Wyer (1996) found that liberals scored higher than conservatives on the Attributional Complexity Scale (Fletcher, Danilovics, Fernandez, Peterson, & Reeder, 1986), an indicator that the former generate more complex and detailed (if not more effortful) explanations for the behavior of others.”

Which would explain why conservatives only seem to understand painful situations when they happen to them, or to someone close to them.

We think that compassion and empathy are a fundamental part of liberal values, and we note at times that it takes being in that specific situation for conservatives to grasp why, for example, liberals support universal healthcare for all. There are many studies that address that take on things, but this study is specifically addressing whether or not having low-effort thinking will produce conservative thinking initially, and they showed that it does.


That would fall under blaming the person versus the situation. In some instances, it takes higher level effort thinking (correctional thinking) to consider the situational explanation. An example is considering why someone might be on government assistance. Conservative thinking will blame the person, liberal thinking will correct that initial impulse with a situation-based explanation. “Skitka and her colleagues (Skitka et al., 2002; Study 4) analyzed interviews conducted for the 1987 National Election Studies and found that liberals were more than twice as likely as conservatives to correct an initial “person” attribution with a “situation” explanation in response to a question about government assistance. These correlational findings suggest that some instances of ideology may result from correction processes, overriding and adjusting initial conservative responses. Our experimental studies provide evidence of causal direction.”


Whether that low-effort thinking comes from being busy, overwhelmed, or inebriated, the study shows that under conditions of what we could call cognitive impairment or limited time resulting in low-effort thinking, people are more conservative politically.


As for those centrists (or, come election time, undecided voters), your suspicions appear to be correct. “People with strong political views—left or right—show more cognitive ability than broadly defined centrists.” (Kemmelmeier, 2008)

What they want

Via Digby, David Plouffe explains it all for you:

Obama senior adviser David Plouffe predicted that the fiscal cliff negotiations are “going to get hairy” in the coming weeks, saying President Barack Obama is committed to achieving the elusive “big deal” on taxes and spending he and Speaker of the House John Boehner have tried to strike for more than 18 months.


In post-election remarks at the University of Delaware, Plouffe warned of “paralysis” if both parties remain beholden to their base, saying Obama is looking for a deal that sets the country on the right fiscal path for a 10- to 20-year period.


“The only way that gets done is for Republicans again to step back and get mercilessly criticized by Grover Norquist and the Right, and it means that Democrats are going to have to do some tough things on spending and entitlements that means that they’ll criticized on by their left,” Plouffe said at his alma mater in conversation with former McCain campaign manager Steve Schmidt.


The senior White House adviser repeated Obama’s opposition to extending the Bush tax cuts on those earning more than $250,000 a year, but expressed openness to a tax reform deal that could potentially lower what the wealthy pay.


“What we also want to do is engage in a process of tax reform that would ultimately produce lower rates, even potentially for the wealthiest,” he said, referring to benefits from corporate tax reform.


Plouffe added that while the White House wants to engage in comprehensive tax reform, they know they must also “carefully” address the “chief drivers of our deficit”: Medicare and Medicaid.

I don’t think “Criticized” is quite strong enough to describe the shitstorm we’re going to throw at them when they try this.

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