The mock-benevolence of “compassionate” legislation 1


By Tom Quiner

The Americans with Disability Act (ADA) was a compassionate piece of legislation, right? It prevented discrimination against individuals with disabilities.

Anyone who opposed that piece of legislation is considered mean-spirited, devoid of a drop of humanity.

How about the extension of jobless benefits from a standard half year to closer to two years (99 months)?  These are tough times, right?  In the name of compassion, let’s subsidize unemployment.

Anyone who opposed that piece of legislation is considered mean-spirited, devoid of a drop of humanity.

And what about the minimum wage?  People should be paid what they need, not what they’re worth, right?

Anyone who opposed the two recent bumps in the minimum wage is considered mean-spirited, devoid of a drop of humanity.

These legislative initiatives are compassionate.  They make us feel good.  But do they work?

The ADA was designed to make it easier for folks with disabilities to find jobs. Researchers at MIT studied it. They found that, in fact, employment for men with disabilities between the ages of 21 and 58 dropped after the passage of the ADA.  They found it dropped for women between the ages of 21 and 39.  Why?  Because the disabled became a protected class. The number of lawsuits increased when they lost a job.  The threat of increased lawsuits is a deterrent to employers, because the cost and aggravation went up to hire the disabled.

The “hire the disabled” programs that were in place before the ADA have gone away.

What about the extension of jobless benefits from 26 to 99 weeks. Beside the cost to taxpayers for subsidizing unemployment, what could be wrong with that?  According to Harvard economist, Robert Barro, it has actually worsened the unemployment rate. I quote him from his piece in the Wall Street Journal:  “My calculations suggest the jobless rate could be as low as 6.8% instead of 9.5%, if jobless benefits hadn’t been extended to 99 weeks.”

Why?  According to Barro, more compassionate benefits distort efficiency, prolonging unemployment due to insufficient job search.  Unemployment was higher in 1982 than now, but it wasn’t as prolonged, because unemployment wasn’t subsidized as long by the taxpayers.

Finally, what about the minimum wage, what could be wrong with that?  Here’s what: it suppresses employment for the least skilled workers in society, teenagers. It especially hurts employment prospects for black teenage males.  A year ago, the minimum wage was increased to $7.25.  Unemployment for these black young men immediately shot up from about 39% to about 50%.

How could it do anything else?  If you require employers to pay people more than what they’re worth, more employers will take a pass.

So, in the name of compassion, we have passed legislation that ultimately hurts the people we’re trying to help.  Feelings trump critical thinking.

So, in the name of feelings, take a few minutes to listen the song above.  It pays tributes to legislation that truly is “nothing more than feelings.”