In a Wall Street Journal op-ed this morning, Robert Barro lays blame for the nation’s stubbornly high unemployment rate squarely on President Obama’s doorstep. The outspoken Harvard economist asserts that unemployment would stand at 6.8 percent—well below today’s 9.5 percent—if only the president and Congress hadn’t extended unemployment compensation to 99 weeks.
The stimulus bill before the Senate would exempt from income tax the first $2,400 of unemployment compensation that people receive in 2009. Because the exclusion reduces their taxable income, higher bracket taxpayers get a bigger break than those with lower incomes. And very low-income households that have no tax liability would get no benefit at all.