Tax Deal Shows Obama Doesn’t Understand Incentives

Most of the focus on the recent federal tax deal centers around the need to extend the Bush tax cuts. This posting focuses on the unemployment extension for 13 months starting January 1, 2011. It would seem that Obama is trying to keep the nation’s unemployment rate elevated well into his re-election campaign. This is one instance of bad economics and bad politics being one and the same.

After all, in spite of the financial crash, in spite of Obama’s (and Bush’s) over-spending, and in spite of our nation’s horrible financial condition, the economy is bound to start growing and thus creating jobs over the next year. Obama’s unemployment extension (some will now have gone more than 3 years without working and yet receiving unemployment under this compromise) would seem to be a great way to keep the unemployment rate well over 9.0% (it is now at 9.8%) well into his bid for re-election in 2014. Is this really what he wants?

Rather than a blanket extension of unemployment, Obama (and Congress) could have added requirements that workers pay back some portion of their “unemployment insurance” once they find work, but no such requirement seemed to receive serious consideration.