NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Monday, August 1st, 2011

Right wing economic liberty myths simply don’t square with reality

Part of our work here at the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute is to pro­vide you, our read­ers, and fel­low pro­gres­sive activists with infor­ma­tion that can be used to counter the talk­ing points lies, half-truths, and decep­tion par­rot­ed by con­ser­v­a­tive talk radio hosts, talk­ing heads and polit­i­cal oper­a­tives. Here are two cas­es where the truth is entire­ly dif­fer­ent than the right wing’s talk­ing points.

Myth #1: If gov­ern­ment cuts tax­es on busi­ness, the sav­ings will be passed on to cus­tomers.

This mantra has been part of the holy canon of con­ser­v­a­tive ide­ol­o­gy for the past thir­ty years. How­ev­er, just because they keep say­ing it does­n’t make it true. For exam­ple, on July 23rd, a num­ber of avi­a­tion tax­es expired when Con­gress failed to reau­tho­rize the Fed­er­al Avi­a­tion Admin­is­tra­tion.

So by con­ser­v­a­tive log­ic, now that the tax­es have expired, the price of an air­line tick­et should be drop­ping, giv­ing fre­quent fliers a price break.

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, the oppo­site hap­pened and greedy air­lines reaped the wind­fall.

Sev­er­al avi­a­tion tax­es expired after mid­night Fri­day when Con­gress failed to reau­tho­rize the Fed­er­al Avi­a­tion Admin­is­tra­tion, which col­lects the rev­enue. The sus­pend­ed tax­es could save pas­sen­gers 10% to 15% on their tick­et prices, but most U.S. car­ri­ers have boost­ed fares to the lev­els tick­et prices would have been with the tax­es still in place, allow­ing the air­lines to take in rough­ly an extra $25 mil­lion a day, says Rick Seaney of FareCompare.com.

The bot­tom line: When cor­po­ra­tions have to choose between giv­ing their cus­tomers a break and padding their prof­its, they can be count­ed upon to go with the lat­ter option. It’s hap­pened time and time again.

Myth #2: Unem­ployed work­ers will sim­ply use up their ben­e­fits rather than look for jobs because they don’t want to work.

With the Great Reces­sion and eco­nom­ic down­turn claim­ing over 14 mil­lion jobs nation­wide, many find them­selves out of work and try­ing to sur­vive on unem­ploy­ment ben­e­fits.

As if los­ing their jobs isn’t enough, they are sub­ject­ed to deri­sion by con­ser­v­a­tives who call them lazy and say they don’t real­ly want jobs because they’re col­lect­ing ben­e­fits. Nev­er mind that the ben­e­fits have been legal­ly earned, or being used for the pur­pose for which they were intend­ed.

Such details are triv­i­al­i­ties to the self-right­eous con­ser­v­a­tive. The false stereo­type they’ve invent­ed comes straight from the pages of the 1980s play­book of Rea­gan con­ser­v­a­tives (wel­fare queens, any­one?).

How­ev­er — as with the pre­vi­ous myth — this one is also untrue.

The Wash­ing­ton State Employ­ment Secu­ri­ty Depart­ment recent­ly sur­veyed 30,000 exhaus­tees (unem­ployed work­ers who have run out of ben­e­fits). The sur­vey was sent to any­one who had run out of unem­ploy­ment ben­e­fits since Novem­ber 2009, with over 5,000 peo­ple respond­ing.

Only about 25 per­cent of those who respond­ed to the sur­vey had found work. Most of these said they used online resources and net­work­ing to find their jobs.

Of the exhaus­tees respond­ing to the sur­vey who have not found work, more than 86 per­cent were still look­ing for work, and near­ly half said age is their great­est bar­ri­er to find­ing work.

Sur­vey results of par­tic­u­lar inter­est include the fol­low­ing:

  • Near­ly 90 per­cent (3,942 of 4,451 respon­dents) of respon­dents said they vis­it­ed a Work­Source office dur­ing their unem­ploy­ment ben­e­fits claim peri­od.
  • More than 46 per­cent (392 of 847 respon­dents) of reem­ployed exhaus­tees found Work­Source ser­vices help­ful in find­ing employ­ment.
  • Reem­ployed exhaus­tees cit­ed résumé assis­tance, job-search help, use of office equip­ment and class­es as some of the most help­ful Work­Source ser­vices.
  • One in 12 exhaus­tees who have not found work cit­ed lack of edu­ca­tion or skills as his or her great­est bar­ri­er to find­ing employ­ment.

75% of those who ran out of ben­e­fits were still out of work as of the date of the sur­vey, and many of the exhaus­tees were eli­gi­ble for 99 weeks of ben­e­fits. Giv­en the num­bers of peo­ple vis­it­ing Work­Source offices and uti­liz­ing avail­able ser­vices, the issue is not the lack of desire for employ­ment but rather the lack of jobs avail­able.

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