Our View: Time to Derail the Unemployment Gravy Train

January 14, 2014
Are perpetual unemployment benefits creating a permanent class of loafers?

Are open-ended jobless benefit extensions making unemployment a way of life for some Americans?

In an exercise that is beginning to look like something out of the Bill Murray classic Groundhog Day, Senate Democrats are pushing for yet another extension of jobless benefits for out-of-work Americans.  The proposal is the latest in a series of extensions stretching all the way back to 2008 — and we hope lawmakers will reject it.

That’s because unemployment insurance is supposed to be temporary, providing displaced workers with some short-term assistance while they seek to find another job.

But allowing someone to collect unemployment for 99 weeks – almost two years – is hardly what most Americans would call “short-term.”  And six straight years of back-to-back extensions have made the program look less like a temporary safety net, and more like an entitlement hammock.

The President, predictably, has pulled out all of the rhetorical stops in an effort to ram the $6.4 billion extension through Congress.

The White House even went so far as to make the ridiculous claim that 240,000 jobs will somehow be lost if the couch-surfers don’t continue to receive their government checks.  We’re not sure what economist crunched the numbers to come up with that calculation, but we suspect it may have been the same one who predicted that Obamacare wouldn’t add “a single dime to the deficit.”

We also find it peculiar that Mr. Obama is advocating for yet another extension of jobless benefits for millions of long-term, unemployed Americans on one hand — while backing lax immigration rules on the other.

We certainly didn’t win a Nobel Prize like the President, but if there are so few jobs that taxpayers are being asked to underwrite a sixth consecutive year of unemployment extensions, why on earth would we want to import millions of additional foreign job-seekers – particularly low skilled ones?

But then, consistency and logic have never been hallmarks of this White House.

Republicans, for their part, have been demanding that the multi-billion dollar package be “paid for” with spending cuts in other areas.  And that argument has a nice rhetorical ring to it.  But let’s be honest:  In an era of trillion dollar deficits as far as the eye can see, nothing is truly “paid for.”  And even if offsets were identified, what would stop lawmakers from simply rolling those offsets back later – as they did with the modest sequestration cuts just last month?

We appreciate attempts by GOP lawmakers to try and make the package “budget neutral,” but in the end we are far less concerned about the benefits being “offset” than we are about the permanent class of loafers that they are helping to create.

Comments made by visitors are not representative of The Colorado Observer staff.

2 Responses to Our View: Time to Derail the Unemployment Gravy Train

  1. Brian McFarlane
    January 14, 2014 at 2:53 pm

    We need unemployment reform more than we need immigration “reform”. The way unemployment compensation should work is to have individual saving accounts for workers to draw on after being laid off. Unemployment Insurance Saving Accounts (UISAs) as an alternative to the traditional unemployment insurance system. This, proposed by Martin Feldstein would also pay any positive account balance at retirement to the employee. Money can be borrowed if the account is drained. This also creates sensitivity to the cost of unemployment compensation. The way it is with the US legislature just amounts to another welfare program. There should not be another extension, the unemployment “insurance” program should never have involved the federal government. The long ago quote from Ben Franklin … “When the people find that they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the republic.” Is coming to fruition.

    • Tim
      January 20, 2014 at 5:41 pm

      Very interesting concept. My thinking was that unemployment insurance should have a taper, so that beneficiaries would not be in the position of taking a “pay cut” if they took a low-paying job when their previous job left them with a high benefit. I can see no good in curtailing the benefits of those at the lowest tier, however.
      Your savings account idea kind of solves the issue, PROVIDING that enough time passes so that people can build up an account balance.


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