Best known as President Clinton’s Secretary of Labor, Robert Reich is currently a professor of public policy at the University of California (Berkeley). Last week, he wrote a blog post that attempted to defend the government’s giving of unemployment benefits to those who are currently out of work. He opposed Harvard professor Robert Barro’s belief that “long-term unemployment is the consequence rather than the cause of today’s extended unemployment insurance benefits.” Reich disagrees with Barro for a number of reasons yet he never fully articulates any of them. With a grandiose title like “Why a civil society extends unemployment benefits,” I was hoping for a far more comprehensive essay than the one-page diatribe I actually received. Reich admits that Barro is correct “in theory,” but claims that Barro isn’t operating in the “real world.” He writes: “Anyone who bothered to step into the real world would see the absurdity of Barro’s position.” I trust that readers will forgive me for not falling into Reich’s “real world” trap and taking a closer look at just what he is proposing.

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