Reviled Corporations Suddenly Doing Some Nice Things For Humans, Occasionally

01/20/2011 04:13 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The unwritten law of journalism is that you need three examples of a thing to make a "trend piece." But shouldn't journalists stay abreast of such things, and warn people when trends are emerging? Not if the trends are idiotic, New York Times Style section! I can't help noticing, though, that in recent days two nearly-universally reviled corporate behemoths have published studies that actually contribute an unalloyed good to actual humans. Will there be a third? Insha'Allah!

The first example of this perhaps-trend is a report issued by Wall Street megalopolis Goldman Sachs, concerning unemployment benefits. See, this had been a subject of some debate among politicians, many of whom insisted that the jobless were living the life of Gatsby on the government dime instead of pounding the pavement and looking for jobs.

It shouldn't have taken an expert to shoot this down. Having an actual job is much preferable to subsisting on UI benefits. It's just that in an economy where there is one job for every five job seekers, UI bennies are infinitely preferable to "crawling off into a wooded area to sleep in dirt and eat tree bark." And as it happened, the image of the unemployed as shiftless dole-suckers disintegrates if you spend even a small amount of time researching what happens when people with employment opportunities come along.

But hey, you know, Goldman Sachs to the rescue:

Some commentators have argued that extended unemployment insurance (UI) benefits are the key reason for high unemployment in the United States. Using data from 20 OECD countries we present evidence to the contrary. Our results suggest that only ½ percentage point of the current 9.4% jobless rate can be explained by the extension of UI benefits. Moreover, our calculations suggest that this effect will fade when the extended benefits eventually expire. These estimates--broadly in line with a recent study by the San Francisco Fed--reinforce our view that the overwhelming share of unemployment is cyclical rather than structural.

The Awl's Choire Sicha helpfully tugs out the math:

We find that a 10 point increase in the replacement rate--broadly similar to what we saw during the Great Recession in the United States--is associated with a 0.2pt increase in the unemployment rate in the same year. Given the persistence in unemployment, the effect ultimately grows to just above 1 percentage point if the extension of the benefits is permanent (calculated as 0.2 divided by (1-0.83)). These estimates suggest that the unemployment rate is currently ½ percentage point higher due to the extension of the UI benefits than it otherwise would be.

See? Now that's very helpful. And let's face it, if the unemployed were some sort of predatory "blood funnel" sucking wealth from the common teat, Goldman would know.

Moving to our second example, we have BP. You may recall them being in the news for a bunch of lives they ruined and an ecosystem they rogered with a massive oil spill. Well, their recent experience with ecological calamity seems to have served them in good stead, because in their recently-published Energy Outlook, the company is saying that the projected rate of carbon emissions are a "wake up call." Per Andy Rowell, at WonkRoom:

In a bleak prognosis for success on reducing carbon dioxide emissions, BP admits in its new Energy Outlook 2030 report, which was published yesterday, that global CO2 emissions from energy will grow an average of 1.2 percent a year through 2030. In total, BP's chief economist Christof Ruehl predicts "to the best of our knowledge," CO2 emissions will rise by 27 percent over the next two decades, meaning an increase of about 33bn tons. All this does not bode well for climate change, with even Bob Dudley calling the scenarios a "wake-up call":

"I need to emphasize that this is a projection, not a proposition. It is our dispassionate view of what we believe is most likely to happen on the basis of the evidence. For example, we are not as optimistic as others about progress in reducing carbon emissions. But that doesn't mean we oppose such progress. As you probably know, BP has a 15 year record of calling for more action from governments, including the wide application of a carbon price. Our base case assumes that countries continue to make some progress on addressing climate change, based on the current and expected level of political commitment. But overall, for me personally, it is a wake-up call, not something any of us would like to see happening."

BP's estimate is just higher than ExxonMobil, which believes that CO2 emissions will increase by 25 percent in 20 years, which, according to John Vidal, writing in the Guardian, in effect dismisses "hopes that runaway climate change can be arrested and massive loss of life prevented."

In short, BP would sort of like the entire world to have their lives back. Thoughtful!

Now we should be on the lookout for a third member of the oligopoly to come forward and join this emerging trend of do-gooding/non-wishing-of-indiscriminate-harm-to-humans. Perhaps some major insurer would like to come forward and say that America could really use a public option to help enfranchise the uninsured and reduce long-term health care costs? Or maybe Glock would like to step up and say, "You know, these large-capacity clips are dangerous and unnecessary and make our guns look kind of stupid, to boot." Really, we're open to anything!

Do Extended Unemployment Benefits Increase Unemployment? No. [The Awl]
BP Says Future Of Carbon Pollution Without Limit Should Be 'Wake Up Call' [Wonk Room]

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