NYT Finds the Guy Who Wants You to Cut His Jobless Benefits

Leave it to the New York Times (10/7/11) to find a guy collecting unemployment who opposes the extension of unemployment benefits. He’s “Dan Tolleson, a researcher and writer with a Ph.D. in politics…whose last good job was working for a group that aims to replace the income tax with a national sales tax.”

But don’t think reporter Shaila Dewan picked some unrepresentative oddball to highlight just to make a political point about “how divisive the question has become of providing a bigger safety net to the long-term jobless.” Oh no–quite the contrary:

Even among those struggling to find work, Mr. Tolleson is not alone in his views. In a recent survey of the unemployed by Rutgers University, more than one in four respondents was opposed to renewing the current extended unemployment benefits. Three out of five said recipients should be required to take training courses.

But when you click on that link, you find that the Rutgers survey is not “of the unemployed”–the sample includes recently jobless people who are currently working, and of those respondents who are jobless right now, a large majority haven’t gotten unemployment benefits in the past year. So how many people are like Donald Tolleson, collecting benefits that they don’t the government should be giving them? Maybe none–the results aren’t broken down that way.

Further, the survey asked about whether “longer and higher benefits from Unemployment Insurance” were a good idea in the context of “ideas that are being considered by government officials to help bring down high unemployment.” So if you supported extending unemployment benefits because they would be good for the unemployed but didn’t think they would help bring down unemployment, should you answer yes or no?

The question was asked in a more straightforward way by CNN the last time President Obama signed a bill extending benefits (12/17-19/10). Questioned whether they favored or opposed “an extension of unemployment benefits for workers who lose their jobs,” 76 percent of a sample of adults nationwide were in favor, with only 22 percent opposed. Could it be that extending unemployment benefits is not as “divisive” as the New York Times would like you to think?

About Jim Naureckas

Extra! Magazine Editor Since 1990, Jim Naureckas has been the editor of Extra!, FAIR's monthly journal of media criticism. He is the co-author of The Way Things Aren't: Rush Limbaugh's Reign of Error, and co-editor of The FAIR Reader: An Extra! Review of Press and Politics in the '90s. He is also the co-manager of FAIR's website. He has worked as an investigative reporter for the newspaper In These Times, where he covered the Iran-Contra scandal, and was managing editor of the Washington Report on the Hemisphere, a newsletter on Latin America. Jim was born in Libertyville, Illinois, in 1964, and graduated from Stanford University in 1985 with a bachelor's degree in political science. Since 1997 he has been married to Janine Jackson, FAIR's program director. You can follow Jim on Twitter at @JNaureckas.