Liberal radio and TV host Thom Hartmann took on the gang at Fox and Friends this week over the stimulative properties of food stamps and unemployment benefits. Fox and Friends, along with other conservative media, criticized Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack‘s remarks that food stamps are “the most direct stimulus you can get in the economy during these tough times.”
Hartmann responded with the usual bag of tricks: facts and logic.
Update: Eric Bolling responds via Twitter.
Vilsack argued that ““Every dollar of SNAP benefits generates $1.84 in the economy in terms of economic activity,” adding that “If people are able to buy a little more in the grocery store, someone has to stock it, package it, shelve it, process it, ship it. All of those are jobs. It’s the most direct stimulus you can get in the economy during these tough times.”
Hartmann plays a few clips from Fox & Friends, and while he correctly notes the weakness of their argument, he seems to gloss over their real objection:
As Hartmann notes, pet conservative stimulus solutions like tax cuts for businesses do bupkes to stimulate the economy. According to the figures he cites from Moody’s, here’s how different types of stimulus break down:
It seems like the simplest thing in the world, but you cannot create jobs without demand. Putting money in the hands of people who will actually spend it is the quickest, surest way to create that demand.
But this argument isn’t really about whether food stamps are stimulative or not. The crux of these objections to food stamps and unemployment benefits is summed up in Brian Kilmeade‘s contemptuous assessment that “if you give people money that they didn’t earn, they’ll buy stuff that they couldn’t otherwise afford.”
These people would sooner eat broken glass than “give” anyone a “handout.” How is it, though, that people on food stamps earned their poverty? Was it by shipping their own jobs overseas, cratering the economy by speculating on junk financial instruments, or jacking up oil prices while collecting billions in subsidies?
Conversely, what have wealthy individuals and corporations done to “earn” their huge tax cuts and subsidies? To hear conservatives tell it, their only function is to “create jobs,” which seems to be the only thing they cannot do.
Hartmann inadvertently nails the fulcrum on which this issue rests when he talks about the “moral obligation” to make sure that people don’t starve to death (or as Kilmeade puts it, “buy stuff they can’t afford”). In the conservative mind, it is a far worse moral failing to be poor.
Update: Eric Bolling responds via Twitter by calling Thom Hartmann a “jackass,” but then mangles the traditional “I’ve forgotten more about X than you’ll ever know” putdown, tweeting “This genius spends 7 mins “teaching” me economics?? I forgot more about economics than this liberal jackass will…”
He declined to thank Hartmann for the refresher.
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