White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow on Friday again trotted out the Trump administration story that American workers would like nothing better than to sit at home collecting unemployment benefits. He even cited an academic study to back him up — except he completely “misinterpreted” the research, according to the lead author of the study.
Kudlow repeated on CNN the administration’s attack on continuing the $600 a week extra unemployment benefit for American workers that expired last month. He argued that the money is a disincentive to work, refusing to recognize that the number of available jobs for the newly unemployed has dramatically shrunk amid the COVID-19 crisis, which prompted the stimulus measure in the first place.
“What evidence do you have?” CNN host Poppy Harlow asked Kudlow.
“What evidence?” asked an exasperated Kudlow, who cited a University of Chicago study.
“But, Larry, the University of Chicago survey, it doesn’t conclude what you’re arguing,” Harlow said, adding that she’d talked to the study’s lead author, Peter Ganong, who told her it was a “mistake to draw the conclusion as you have been and the White House has been that right now it’s a disincentive to go back to work.”
Ganong has estimated that without some enhanced unemployment benefits, aggregate spending could fall 4.3% — a steeper economic decline than during the Great Recession.
“Well, look, whoever that chap is, he or she .... we can argue one academic versus another,” Kudlow responded. Harlow reminded him: “You brought up the University of Chicago” study.
She added: “You’ve read the study, right?” Kudlow insisted that he’s “seen the work.” He then named an economist from the University of Chicago who had nothing to do with the study.
HARLOW: What evidence do you have that unemployment benefits are a disincentive for people to go back to work?— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) August 7, 2020
KUDLOW: This University of Chicago study
H: I talked to the author of the study last night. It doesn't say that
KUDLOW: Well, we can argue one academic versus another pic.twitter.com/NkgabFntXS
Study researcher Ganong responded to the interview on Twitter, noting that Kudlow never cited another study — nor challenged the study’s findings.
Note: Larry did not actually cite another academic either as (a) saying that our study was wrong or (b) saying that we had misinterpreted our own study.— Peter Ganong (@p_ganong) August 7, 2020
In fact, none of the recent five studies of the enhanced unemployment benefits support the administration’s claims. Evidence shows the extra money has kept many families out of poverty during the COVID-19 crisis and created a stimulus to the economy as people spend the much-needed funds.
The University of Chicago study in May found that in some cases workers were collecting more in enhanced unemployment benefits than they had been earning. But payments likely won’t create a disincentive to work “until the public health threat diminishes and businesses again look to hire,” the study noted.
A Yale study released early this month concluded that there is “no evidence” that enhanced unemployment benefits have decreased employment. People who were collecting enhanced benefits actually resumed working at a similar and even quicker rate than others who were not eligible for the extra aid once work was available, according to the study, “Employment Effects of Unemployment Insurance Generosity During the Pandemic.”
Ganong praised Harlow on Friday for taking the time to learn the facts of the study and to explain to Kudlow how he had “misinterpreted” the findings.
👏👏👏 for @PoppyHarlowCNN— Peter Ganong (@p_ganong) August 7, 2020
Many journalists would have turned our UI replacement rates work into a he-said, she-said story.
She took the time to reach out, understand how our study was misinterpreted, and explain that to Larry Kudlow. https://t.co/oFdWZMhih1
Harlow also reminded Kudlow that American workers take pride in their work.
She then called Kudlow out for all the times he has been wrong about the economy and the pandemic, including in February when he declared COVID-19 containment was “pretty close to airtight.”
Kudlow responded: “I kind of resent your little nitpicking here.”
Asked to explain why he's been wrong about the coronavirus at every turn -- he said the virus was "contained" in February, for instance -- Kudlow takes umbrage with Poppy Harlow for "nitpicking" pic.twitter.com/bNvNP8Qj4r— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) August 7, 2020
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This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.