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Nuts & Bolts

January 17, 2014

Unemployment benefits not just for emergencies anymore

(Continued)

Then, in the next breath, she went on about how it would be an economic disaster to return to non-emergency unemployment benefit levels - which in most states are at least six months - because “people are able and willing to work, and are looking for work, but the jobs just aren’t there.”

If unemployment is still an emergency, why should the president get a pass on the absurd claim that this is a miraculous recovery?

***

This is not a screed against unemployment benefits. I believe in them. I used them for four months a couple of years ago and was thankful to have them, even though my peek into the bureaucracy that administers them was not pretty.

But it is not heartless or cruel to ask if continuing what is supposedly an emergency benefit for two years provides the best incentive to get people back to work.

There are, in fact, jobs out there. I see retail and food establishments posting signs along the road saying they are hiring. These may not be high-wage jobs. Indeed, they may not be jobs commensurate with someone’s skills and experience. But they are better than no job – unless, of course, there is a government check coming in.

The point is, incentives matter. Subsidizing people to hold out for the perfect job is different from claiming there are no jobs.

***

Finally, this is an administration that seems to celebrate dependency. The president congratulates himself for growing numbers of people collecting unemployment or food stamps.

Why isn’t he more focused on getting people off those programs? Do we really want to make it easier to remain unemployed, or to get back to work?

Taylor Armerding is an independent columnist. Contact him at t.armerding@verizon.net

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