Extending Job Benefits: Irresponsible, Unfair and Unethical

Last week, Republicans blocked yet another extension of unemployment benefits, and we can only hope they have the integrity and courage to do it again, in the face of predictable cries that they are cruel and heartless. The correct term is “fair and responsible.”

Well over a decade ago, President Clinton and a Republican Congress instituted welfare reform over similar accusations that it would spark tragedy and starvation. What it did was help end cycles of poverty and dependency. Hardly anyone except die-hard socialists argues that limiting welfare was a mistake today.

The serial extensions of unemployment benefits we have seen for two years, however, have become indistinguishable from welfare, and are now blatant political pandering to a large unemployed voter bloc in distress. The government is broke and in debt, and in no position to add an open-ended entitlement that pays Americans not to get jobs. Under what circumstances will the extensions end? If unemployment stays near 10%, will that mean that the Democrats and the media will insist that unemployment benefits never end? Is that the new policy in the U.S….permanent checks for the unemployed? I don’t recall ever hearing candidates for office debate that, perhaps because it is an insane idea that encourages people not to work, not to sell assets, not to borrow from friends and family, in short, to rely on the government to do something the government can neither afford nor properly add to its responsibilities. If we are going to move in that direction, I want to hear candidates justify the policy and explain how they will pay for it. Give me a reason to support a policy that takes my tax dollars out of what I earn in my job and gives it to someone who isn’t working because the available jobs are “beneath him.”

I spent a good part of the day reading arguments on-line from blog and news site commenters who insist that the benefits have to be extended. Their comments all can be summarized by a couple of statements: 1) “I need money” and 2) “The government has wasted money on  wars, bail-outs and boondoggles, so how dare they be responsible now?”  The first is simply begging, not logic; the second is the product of bias: of course the writer thinks his or her own welfare is a better expenditure than policies he disagreed with. Neither statement is persuasive, and our elected officials haven’t offered anything better.

The ad hoc extension policy, meanwhile, is guaranteed to be unfair. Explain to me why, for example, the jobless in a period of 10% unemployment should have perpetual benefits, but those who are in a 5% unemployment pool should have limited benefits. Is the second group more desperate than the first? I don’t see why. Less deserving? No. Is the country more able to provide assistance to the larger group? Well, actually, the nation is in better financial shape to extend benefits the lower the unemployment rate, and it is cheaper to send checks to fewer unemployed rather than more. If half the unemployed find jobs tomorrow, why would that argue for not extending benefits for the unfortunate group remaining? The fact is that the arguments for extending unemployment now will be just as valid–and invalid—ten years from now as they are today. Maybe that’s the plan.

If the Republicans are willing and able to insist on making real budget cuts pay for the next extension, that would be less irresponsible, but the only ethical course is to stop extending unemployment benefits at all, and now. The buffer for unemployment turned into back-door welfare long ago. We can’t afford it, it slows employment, and it makes the illogical and unfair statement that the unemployed during hard times deserve  more assistance than those who are jobless when more of their neighbors are working.

And yes, I’ve been unemployed, and once had to find a way to make ends meet long after my benefits ran out. I took a lot of strange low-paying jobs during that period, and I would have loved to have the government just keep sending me checks instead, until i found my dream job. It was right not to do it, however.

It is right not to do it now, too.

45 thoughts on “Extending Job Benefits: Irresponsible, Unfair and Unethical

  1. I completely disagree.

    And just WHAT do you propose all the millions of still unemployed people to do—just roll over and die? Because that is what the Republicans are saying to us. You are not important. You are old. You can not be productive. You should just die. Wow, SUCH nice “morals.” HA!

    The “employers” are discriminating against job hunters that are over 40. I think we have a better chance of getting hit by a bus than getting hired right now. College degrees and experience don’t matter. We are deem old, used-up commodities by our capitalist system.

    Perhaps when the millions of unemployed STOP paying their mortgages and bills, go bankrupt, and quit buying into this broken system the Republicans will wake up. But only because their Wall Street buddies are going broke with no little consumers to line their pockets.

    • So why are these unemployed different from all others before or since? Distinguish between them, and I’ll consider the argument. Why now? What would justify timing out benefits—ever— in your view? Unemployed people with no more benefits do a lot of things—like accepting some jobs they normally would reject. Tell me why now is different from five years ago. Your second paragraph is just wild generalization. “Roll over and die”–utter nonsense. If that’s your best solution, no wonder you can’t get anyone to hire you. Start your own business. Learn a new skill. Paint my house—I’ll pay you to do it. It is not the government’s job to support you forever, and never has been…not this government. You prove my point, not your own, with that kind of logic-free rant.

  2. You sir are a certifed selfish idiot. Evidently no one you love is going thru this.

    What do you suggest these people do? Can they come to your house for dinner and a warm place to sleep when they are evicted from they homes? and just WHERE do you suggest they find a job? Even with learning new skills and trying something new (u sound like a deranged career counselor living in the twilight zone!) there are STILL no jobs.

    So what do you suggest this 2 mil people do on Dec 1st.

    • Thanks for the civil rebuttal. The fact that these people have legitimate problems—problems, I repeat, that I have shared and did not expect the government to underwrite indefinitely—does not dictate that it is the federal government’s job to support them. Help make a more business-friendly environment for employers, launch federal job programs, perhaps—but paying people to be out of work without criteria or deadlines? Wrong and irresponsible. This isn’t an argument about charity, it is about integrity.

      Lots of people I love are going through this. Your “argument” is an appeal to bias. The point is to apply objective reasoning and ethical an
      analysis, not emotion-based reflexes. You don’t address any of the questions I asked, because you can’t. What do I suggest people do? Do the best they can, like unemployed people have been doing for centuries. Don’t rely on the government to make their problems go away. I have problems too. Insulting, emotional, ethics-challenged and illogical commenters, for example.

    • I also have to say that someone demanding that everyone else pay the costs of her employment problems ad infinitum to also proclaim that those questioning her putting personal well-being over national interests are selfish charts new vistas in self-delusion and hypocrisy.

  3. One of the big problems is that this was supposed to be unemployment insurance. Most of us who are employed pay for this out of our paycheck (as a separate line item) and we have always been told that it is not welfare, it is a government insurance policy with definite benefits. This is now exposed as a lie. This is just another tax whose payout is subject to the political whims of those in office. What happens when the economy gets better? Do the politicians decide that because the unemployment fund was depleted (and in debt now) that no new claims will be paid out until the fund repays its debt and is rebuilt? Are people going to be denied benefits later to pay for those who were allowed to receive more than their policy stated they were entitled to?

    Several years ago, I was looking at the real possibility of being unemployed for an extended period of time. I arranged for a place to stay with my brother while I went back to school to earn a degree that would make me be more employable. I also started making enquiries about a temporary (low paying) job that I could get near his home that would help me support myself during this time . I would have had to sell my house at firesale prices and lost most of my possessions, but I would have survived.

  4. Unethical? Pfui. The extension is good policy aa well as ethical (or at least, not unethical). I would favor it even when the unemployment rate is 5% rather than 10%, but the thing that makes it especially good policy now–aside from humaneness–is that the benefits will provide some stimulus to the economy, when most economists think that would help.

    • This seems so manifestly wrong to me, I can hardly restrain myself—but I will, because I just accidentally erased my brilliantly reasoned and lengthy response. So I’ll summarize: 1) open-ended “Humaneness” when it means devaluing the importance of personal responsibility is just destructive in all directions. Why plan for a rainy day? Why work at all? Human nature, especially the human nature of those most likely to find themselves out of jobs, is to put out the most effort when it is absolutely necessary. People don’t just lay down and die when the cash runs out. They start looking for other options. 2) You essentially are recommending permanent welfare. You really think that is healthy? Affordable? Fair? Amazing. 3) Nobody has yet answered my two key questions. If this is good policy now—when we are broke, when isn’t it good policy? And why is the poor American unlucky enough to be jobless during near full employment not equally worthy of this bounty? 4) The stimulus argument, like the “humaneness” one, never expires. If the nation votes for a nanny state, fine–that’s Democracy. But installing one via “emergency legislation” is dishonest, cowardly, and undemocratic—yes, I call that unethical.

      • It’s an expression of disdain I learned from reading Nero Wolfe when I should have been studying. To counter your sensible-sounding points:
        1) It’s very tough out there now. You can be unemployed without being irresponsible.
        2) No I’m not recommending permanent welfare. I’d end the long-term benefit when the unemployment level drops, say to seven percent.
        3) It ceases to be good policy when jobs cease to be nearly as hard to get. See 2).
        4 The stimulus argument does expire: when the overwhelming number of economists and the central bank believe it’s no longer crucial to economic recovery.

  5. Jack, if the unemployment rate were lower (say 6% or 7%) I could understand the Fed’s rationale for ending the extension program. A lowered rate would indicate that jobs WERE available for those who really want them. But this is not the case.

    However, the current national rate is still holding firm at around 9.5% with many states even higher. Further, the rate has held steady for more or less the last YEAR. This is unprecedented and has not happened since the Great Depression. THAT is what makes the case for extending unemployment this year and adding a Tier V. Unemployment should be extended until the rate comes down, period.

    Do no believe all the negative rhetoric the GOP is flinging out about how these millions of people don’t really want to work. IT IS A LIE! I wish I could smack any politician in the face who is saying such things, because they obviously have no clue what the real situation is. People can preach all they want to about ‘finding other options’ but when you have NO money, there are no other options. Just try finding work when you live out of your car or live on the street.

  6. “Senate Republicans threatened Wednesday to block virtually all legislation until expiring tax cuts are extended.”

    Let’s really talk about being Irresponsible, Unfair and Unethical!

    HOW can anyone possibly condone extending tax cuts for those making more than $250K/year while the unemployed get cut off? Yeah, Right. We can clearly see who has lined the GOP pockets.

    • It amazes me that anyone can really consider that a persuasive or reasonable argument, Donna. First of all, letting people keep the money they make by the sweat of their brow, hard work and investment is not a gift. We should give people money for not working…—forever–we allow people to keep a reasonable amount of money they earn BY working? How does that compute? Bob’s (dubious) argument that money to the unemployed stimulates the economy goes triple for money given to small businesses and the individuals who run them. They are the ones who will HIRE those unemployed, and I can prove it by my own business.

      People have a right to their earnings. Citizens need to pay their fare share for what the government provide, but unless you believe fair is “nothing” for a vast number of Americans, the richest Americans already pay a pretty fair share. I think everyone is going to have to be taxed significantly more because of the deficit, but if all that is going to happen is a massive income transfer from the working to the non-working, that’s grossly unfair.

      Your reasoning in this case just makes no sense.

  7. Are you forgetting that the unemployed were once (and often still are) taxpayers? That we pay an unemployment tax, that is deducted off our paychecks for the last 20 years (where I live anyway).

    I’ve paid more than my share of taxes over the years (single filer-highest tax), and still continue to pay property taxes, even though I have no children who use any of the facilities. Is that fair? By your line of reasoning, since I have no children I should pay less taxes than those who do have kids and get to keep more of the money I earn. Should we also take away Social Security from those who haven’t “earned” it? Some people who get Social Security have actually only worked full-time for about 10 years, yet they collect for 30. Is that fair?

    Sorry, but your trickle-down theory does not fly with me. Those who get the tax cuts often do not hire more workers. I know, I worked for a company like that. They took the tax breaks for woman-owned business (even though it was two men who actually owned the company) and outsourced the design work to the Philippines. HA, some break! Tax cuts for laying off American workers.

    Anyway, I never said unemployment should go on forever. Only until the unemployment rate comes back down to 6 or 7%. If that never happens, we are all likely to be doomed.

    • What’s magic about 6% or 7%? I guarantee you the 6 or 7% will have EXACTLY the same arguments you’re advancing now, and they will make just as much sense.
      Paying taxes also doesn’t guarantee you perpetual unemployment benefits, never were supposed to, never were represented as doing so. I don’t see that connection either. The unemployed need money; I get that. They have a personal crisis. If they are in my support group, I’ll help them: I got plenty of help from friends and relatives when I was unemployed. The government does its part by limited benefits that also create an incentive to find some kind of work. The arguments to the contrary still boil down to “We need money: give it to us.” Well, the government isn’t Daddy.

  8. There is a lot I could say about this post.
    I lot of comments I would like to make.
    But, I’ll limit my observations to three.
    Your post is…
    —Republican (red mean-spirited)

    There are plenty of current events to deem ethical or unethical. To choose this topic, in these economic times, with that point of view was just mean. Like my grandmother used to say, “You don’t need to tell everything you know.”

    Asking people to disprove your point while not providing data to support it is not the best way to convince a reader that you are right. And, as for your personal experience—good for you, Jack. But, everybody ain’t you.

    Finally, comparing Unemployment Insurance extensions to AFDC is flawed on its face. AFDC, as applied from the 1960s forward, was defective.

    There are good arguments to be made on both sides. Unfortunately, this is not one of them.

    • I don’t see your point, Gyasi. I definitely don’t see your argument…or any argument at all. Having to make tough decisions is mean. War is mean. Arresting criminals is mean. Trying them is mean. Firing workers who deserve to be fired; laying off workers to save the business…all mean to somebody. Sending illegal immigrants home—mean. Telling starving foreigners that they just can’t come to America because they want to is mean. Doing the job you are pledged to is mean. Mean isn’t ab argument, unless it is more than a bi-product or responsible action—like not inventing a new entitlement when the country is broke.

      I don’t see why the obvious conclusion that 99 weeks of a safety net intended to be only 26 is more than enough when it is paramount to reduce the deficit is “republican”, though I don’t see that as some kind of epithet either. It’s responsible and fair.

      As for me, I have an obligation not to avoid a topic because it’s sensitive, or because people don’t want to talk about dispassionate ethical considerations, but about what is kind to people who are hurting. That would be an abdication of the blog’s mission, and cowardly.

      Kindness is simply not any government’s prime directive. This is a pure ethical issue, emotion vs what is fair, reasonable and consistent. So far, not one individual, including you, has made anything but an emotional (non-ethical) counter argument. Answer a couple of other questions: is there any factor, if unemployment stayed around 10% , that would lead you to agree that the benefits should expire? Do you really think someone is equally likely to take a job beneath their skill level or aspirations when they are getting a government check weekly as when they are not?

      What data to support it? Ethics isn’t data-driven, it is principle-driven. The data is mixed and debatable, as it always is. You know the numbers—we’re adding over a trillion in new debt this year, and printing money. Extending the benefits definitely adds to that. Some economists say extended benefits prolongs unemployment; some say it stimulates the economy. Who knows? The democratic, individualistic, personal responsibility and accountability, fairness, consistency and prudence-based analysis says that the US does not pay welfare to the unemployed for two years, because that’s not the government we have agreed as a society to have, and should not be. Paying people not to work over a long period is per se unfair—and it happens that it doesn’t work either. But even if it did, it would still be wrong.

      I’m waiting for something more than “it’s mean.”

    • I must say, “pedestrian” hurts. I just don’t see this as a tough call at all, logically. It is just raising the minimum wage, another periodic bit of voter pandering, carried to a ridiculous and expensive extreme. The minimum wage causes unemployment too, but its easy to demagogue the issue, so politicians who know better keep voting for it. If the problem is jobs, you take the money and start infrastructure construction projects with it, and tell unemployed bankers that it is time to get their hands dirty. Congress isn’t doing anything to encourage employment, but it is so much easier to just mollify the unemployed….until the next 29 weeks have gone by. There are no soaring arguments needed unless one has the completely unwarranted belief that old Uncle Sam is supposed to solve all our problems…even though it mismanages all of its own. I don’t.

      • I should have followed my first mind and not commented, but since I did, I shall once again.

        The first thing I know is that we will never agree on the initial post.
        We start with two extremely differing points of view. My assumption is that most people (lets say 80%) want to work and will do whatever they can to support themselves and their families without government assistance. You seem to feel that folks are basically lazy and will live on the dole as long as you allow them to. BTW: I don’t think YOU are mean, just your post. It could be that you are not aware of how bad the economy is and how quickly things went south and what created this mess.

        As far as saying your commentary was pedestrian is concerned—I’m glad I did! Your response to that critique gives us a platform upon which to build.
        ” If the problem is jobs, you take the money and start infrastructure construction projects with it, and tell unemployed bankers that it is time to get their hands dirty.” Well, the problem is jobs. And we should hire people directly for infrastructure construction or anything else we can responsibly come up with. [I heard jobless woman with a Ph.d. molecular biology call in to a program on NPR just yesterday. Surely we can find something she can do!] The bankers can get their hands dirty by lending some of that cash they are flush with. If they are sans employment, put them to work teaching financial literacy to kids or helping entrepreneurs with business plans. In other words, stimulate creatively. Don’t just send a check to people, but find a way for them to use their skills, as well.

        Uncle Sam is not supposed to solve all of our problems. I surely don’t believe that it mismanages all of its own. And, the outsourcing of functions that were once governmental to the private sector that occurred under Bush II reaped less than stellar results. Say what you will, but I get mail (mostly junk) every day (but Sunday, of course); some crazed terrorist has not blown up my town square; I am confident that the food I eat and drugs I take are safe; travel on I75 from north to south is done on largely consistently smooth pavement and U.S. Customs does one hell of a job keeping Cuban Cigars out of America—thereby reducing cancer deaths!

        But, when things are tough, I expect Uncle Sam to step up, step in and help solve the problem(s). And, Jack, it is TOUGH out here now and has been for the past four, maybe five, years….

        • 1) Why would you be hesitant to comment?
          2) I don’t disagree that most people want to work, but the productivity levels in Europe tell you that people won’t work as hard or as often if they don’t have to. Why were French students rioting about not being able to retire at 60? Why are so many rich kids lazy, spoiled wastrels? Necessity is not only the mother of invention, it’s the mother of industry.
          3) You think I don’t know how hard it is out there? Once, when I was unemployed, I slept in an abandoned school building at night. The recession has cost met 30% of my income since 2008; every mortgage payment is a challenge; I’m in debt to everybody. I’ve had the same shoes—one pair–since 2003; because every bit of discretionary money goes to paying off obligations and caring for my son. My house is falling apart; I haven’t had a vacation or a weekend off since 1998. The only reason I’m not unemployed is because I run my own business….because I was sick of having to look for jobs every 7 or 8 years. Never mind: I made my choices, and it is my obligation and privilege to solve my own problems. And that’s what I am doing.
          4) Some people are out of work because money dried up. Some are because they have no skills—and some of those people have the problem because they loafed through school, or got in trouble with the law. Some could get lesser paying jobs, but won’t. Some have no savings to fall back on because they were profligate, or reckless, or foolish; some majored in worthless areas. Some are just lousy, lazy, dishonest, obnoxious employees. ALL of these people deserve endless government funds that you and I will have to pay for later?
          I can tell you right now that an extra 300 bucks a week would do wonders for my business, and I work like a dog. I don’t want the money, but I sure wonder why all those bad decisions are being subsidized, for people who, on balance, will just make more of them….as the US is pushed closer to its own debt crisis.
          4) We agree: Uncle Sam needs to try to solve the jobs problem—responsibly and fairly, which is where the extensions fail. Why isn’t there an emergency loan program at low interest for the unemployed and people about to default on mortgages while unemployed? We can loan out trillions to companies in crisis overnight, but can’t manage quick loans to the unemployed in a crisis? That’s the other ethical objection to the extensions: it makes real solutions less rather than more likely. It’s lazy; it’s sloppy; it is either dishonest (as a back-door entitlement) or unfair (because it will help these unemployed while not helping future unemployed in exactly the same straits.)

  9. As the casual observer looking in, it appears that the main disagreement in this matter is that people one side feels the government still owes them something and the other side feels the people owe the government something.

    The people want money.
    The government wants assurances.

    Money helps the people give the government assurances. I can get on board with extending benefits on a case by case basis. In fact, I think from the very beginning the benefits should be on a case by case basis. If you are meeting certain goals and thresholds, you should get your check. If you played Wii all day long and showed up for your check, you should get zilch.

    “Calling number 364. Name? Occupation?”

    “Tom – Former banker.”

    “Have you looked for work? Please provide copies of your resume and applications submitted. Do you have any evidence of continuing education or trade schools? Have you volunteered your services?”

    “Yes, but no luck. Here are copies. No volunteering, no further education”

    “Okay, well, this week you’ll have to volunteer 10 hours to remain eligible for benefits next week, enroll in a class, or gain “under-employement”.”

    Money is fine, but it always has to come with strings.

    • Tim…This pretty much covers my objections. The assumption that 100% of the jobless are desperate is obviously wrong, as is the assumption that all the jobless are in that situation due to no fault of their own. For there to be an emergency justifying going into more debt, ay very least I’d like to know that it really is an emergency. I remember liking my unemployment check because I could avoid invading my savings.

  10. Again you speak in idiot tongue. Those people making 250,000+ are not sweating at the brow; those are returns on investments, and profits from their business ventures. That is a droll argument and sounds like something a Thuglican would say…

    I know here in CA and TX employees do contribute to UI, so again why is it unethical for them to want their own money? And what about a person who had worked for the last 20 yrs, paid into the fund, paid state and fed taxes, etc, and now needs that money to survive? Are you saying its ethical for them to be cut off too? Thats not your money its theirs. That amounts to robbery…

    You a punk. I noticed that you wanted to assail my character and basically call me an uneducated hoodrat for my typos (made because I was mad and my mind was moving faster that my fingers) but you kiss gyasi ass-“I’ll fix them-not to worry.”

    And that is a lie about you people going thru this. You just wanted to solidify your point. If that were true and your taking this stance, Im sure they dont like you very much. Are you prepard to take them and their families into your home? Will you give them money to pay their mortgages and feed their children? No because thats not the truth.

    Im sure you will point out all MY typos…

    • PLEASE don’t bait me by calling me an idiot and writing something this ignorant: “Those people making 250,000+ are not sweating at the brow; those are returns on investments, and profits from their business ventures.” $250,000 is not “rich” if you have a family, a home, live in a large metropolitan area and run a business. It’s richer than me; it’s nothing to feel sorry for. But these are not investment tycoons. They work as hard as anybody.

      This is a close second: “I know here in CA and TX employees do contribute to UI, so again why is it unethical for them to want their own money? And what about a person who had worked for the last 20 yrs, paid into the fund, paid state and fed taxes, etc, and now needs that money to survive? Are you saying its ethical for them to be cut off too? That’s not your money its theirs. That amounts to robbery…”
      99 weeks of unemployment benefits far outstrips what most, if not all, of these individuals have paid into the system, and what they knew they were paying for. The balance is made up by taxpayers and businesses–which, of course, pass on the costs to us.

      I said your comment was “Insulting, emotional, ethics-challenged and illogical”—I didn’t say a thing about your typos, and I never do, because I make too many of them myself. I’m not going to take the time to fix the typos and shorthand of someone who won’t take the time and courtesy to write “you,” however.

      Your comments add nothing to the discussion; not enlightenment, not perspective. Just free-floating indignation. I’ll tolerate insults from someone who actually thinks about the issues, but not from you.

    • Well, now I will make fun of you. I have given you every chance to offer a reasoned rebuttal to my post; I took the time to respond to your poor excuse for logic, and finding yourself without any real arguments to offer, you resort to “whatever”—the intellectual equivalent of burping, and an insult written in the manner of a first grader. The fact that the President favors the same irresponsible policy that you do should give everyone chills.

  11. Hmmm. Is it possible that one could take offense at datGurl’s “argument,” and still think unemployment benefits should be extended? Or has she inadvertently proven Jack right and Obama wrong? Just asking?

    • Sure, Bob. I just haven’t heard an argument that goes beyond “it’s a nice thing to do” and that deals with the core questions I posed: Why 10% and not 5%? Why should these unemployed be deemed more desperate than past and future long-term jobless when the national situation is different? How is it responsible to pay more weeks of unemployment assistance now than when the nation actually had some money? Isn’t changing national policy on unemployment insurance by a series of emotion-driven “emergency” extensions inherently dishonest? Datgirl’s mau-mauing is pretty typical of the attacks on opponent of the extension. And isn’t it telling that during financial crisis, the President places redistribution of income to variously qualified long-term unemployed—some of whom may be financially secure—than seeking responsible financial measures? Why would he be willing to trade a tax cut—increasing the deficit—for an extension—also increasing the deficit? Either insist that the increased taxes are needed to pay for the extensions, or let the extensions fail and insist on the tax increase, but his current position just shows irresponsible and warped priorities.

      If the extension goes through yet again, every single long-term jobless individual who has turned down jobs “beneath him” or is living off a healthy saving account will be able to ask, “Why not me?” when the 26 weeks are up. What’s your answer to him?

      The more I think about the extensions, the more I think it is political correctness run amuck. We don’t have the money; it violates established policy; the benefits to the economy are overstated, speculative and dubious; and there is no end in sight. Yet there are few critics, and those that there are get insulting characterizations rather than genuine arguments. This is what cutting entitlements will be like: impossible.

  12. Just to add a small note: unemployment checks are almost immediately spent and put back into the economy by the recipients. This provides revenue to merchants who are able to then better able to hire more people, thus putting more people to work. Keep this cycle going strongly enough and momentum can, sooner hopefully than later, bring down unemployment and make a better case for ceasing extensions.

    As for the expectation that unemployed or underemployed citizens ought to engage their entrepreneurial spirit and create a job, that may work fine in an ideal world. But the fact of the matter is that not everybody is an entrepreneur (and is it damnable not to be such?), at least not one who does things legally. In fact, I would argue that forcing people to choose between hunger for themselves and/or their family or becoming a modern-day bootlegger sounds… oh, I don’t know… unethical?

    Let’s also keep in mind that for every job available right now, there are approximately 46 unemployed workers for only 10 available job openings. [http://www.epi.org/analysis_and_opinion/entry/job_openings_per_unemployed_worker_unchanged_in_august/]. When a country is earlobe-deep in an economic crisis such as this one, it’s an illusory and dangerous luxury to argue about how people just need to suck it up. It feels like a good, healthy, practical rationalization (dare I say bromide?) but the results of dwelling in and acting on that way of thinking are more often than not, disastrous. Kinda like a reversal of the “just say ‘no'” approach to drug abuse.

    • 1) “Just say no” would work fine if there were no so many forces in the culture suggesting that saying yes is perfectly fine.
      2) So you are saying the the government has an obligation to support, in perpetuity, all individuals who are out of work when full employment is impossible—which is always? That’s a swell idea, but the US had never adopted that policy; it has a lot of troubling consequences and is blatant socialism….gee, don’t you think should have a policy debate before it becomes tradition?
      3) PLEASE—the vast majority of the jobless are NOT facing hunger. Some are. This is the kind of dishonest hyperbole that characterizes this debate.
      4) What you are stating as fact—the so called stimulating factor of unemployment benefits—is hotly debated among economists, just as the equally plausible consequence that extending the benefits prolong unemployment. Assuming you are right, few economists believe that benefits are the MOST efficient way for government to spend the money, of stimulus is the objective. When money is limited and a recession is looming, efficiency would seem to be the prudent course.—especially if the alternative retards employment.

      • Good arguments but I don’t entirely agree.

        Can you address my comments about “entrepreneurial spirit?” I was basing that on your earlier assertion that people ‘make work’ to make ends meet.

        We should also dispel the noxious notion (promoted in many quarters) that benefits are a sole source of income. They are a supplement that nobody can actually live on.

        • Believe me, I don’t assume that all or even most people can just “make work.” If someone has a law degree, is a writer, an actor, or natural entrepreneur, sure. But it’s hard, and income is hardly guaranteed

          In the same vein, not all unemployed are without resources. I know job-seekers who say—“boy, if this goes on much longer, we’ll have to invade the 401K.” Why should government funds be given to someone so he doesn’t have to use his own assets? The presumption that all the long term jobless are sleeping in boxes is not warranted; I would sure like to see the stats. How many have working spouses? (I did, when I was unemployed for 9 months) How many are getting loans from parents? How many have luxury items to sell, trust funds, savings accounts, stock? Have any turned down work? It’s all germane.

  13. We should also dispel the ignorant notion that unemployment is a stimulus.

    OF COURSE the unemployed spend the money they receive. But that money was paid to them by a government (whether Federal or State), which means that 100% of that money was taken from someone else in taxes.

    And OF COURSE that original taxpayer would spend the money, too, had it not been taken away from them in the first place.

    This is the (admittedly oversimplified) fatal flaw of Keynesian economics.


  14. “And OF COURSE that original taxpayer would spend the money, too, had it not been taken away from them in the first place.”

    With that logic, maybe you should demand that the military budget be reduced so you have enough money on hand to buy your own AK-47 and fund a flight to Afghanistan.

    • I would try to rebut that, but I honestly don’t know what point you’re trying to make. And you didn’t actually rebut my point at all.

      And to clarify: I never claimed that Unemployment insurance (a euphemism) is not a legitimate function of government nor did I argue that the extensions should or should not be extended. Just that it’s not a stimulus.

      I don’t see what defense spending has to do with stimulus. It isn’t either, but for different reasons: defense spending is unquestionably a legitimate function of government–it’s in both the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. I do not begrudge my tax money being spent there, nor do I think I could do a better job of it myself.

      Try again.


  15. I am a stay at home mom. Can I get some money for being “unemployed”? My household could use it. I’m growing the next generation. BTW I have a Masters degree, so you will be investing in a future workforce participant.

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