Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Quis custodiet... ?

Dean Baker writes a blog devoted to accuracy on economic reporting, actually more about debunking inaccurate reporting, called Beat The Press. It’s worth the read but, to illustrate just how pervasive one little inaccuracy is, he perpetuates it himself in a post yesterday regarding Social Security.

He says, with respect to a Washington Post article on a poll regarding Obama’s by now infamous tax compromise,

While this article reported the results of a poll on the package it ignored the most obvious implication. The extension of unemployment insurance benefits is hugely popular even among Republicans.

Mr. Baker falls into a common pit there; unemployment benefits are either an “extension” or they are “insurance,” but they cannot be both.

For the first 26 weeks of unemployment one receives benefits which are the product on an unemployment insurance program run by individual states and funded by payments from employers, often with help from the federal government. Those are “unemployment insurance benefits.” After that, however, one most reapply for a different program for benefits to continue. Those benefits are funded from general tax revenues and cannot in any way be called “insurance.” They are simply “extended unemployment benefits.”

The extension that is part of Obama’s compromise does not apply to all unemployed people, either. The maximum limit remains at 99 weeks, and more and more people are reaching that limit and being left with no funds coming in at all. Passing the extension to fund people unemployed for, say, 70 weeks is almost universally agreed as critical, but covering people after 99 weeks is regarded as irrelevant.

I guess after one has been unemployed for that long, one no longer needs to eat.

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