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Unemployment Benefits Will Only Lead To Decadence

Yesterday, President Barack Obama signed a bill extending jobless benefits to more than two million unemployed Americans, ending a long political stalemate. The day before, the United States Senate approved the bill. The next day the House of Representatives speedily passed the measure and quickly passed the legislation on to the oval office. The new law extends unemployment insurance through November for many people who have not yet exhausted their aid. Benefits would be retroactive to late May, when the previous extension expired. Jobless benefits vary from state to state but typically expire after half a year. This law would extend benefits for some to ninety nine weeks.

A Republican filibuster held the bill up in the Senate until the two conservative senators from Maine, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, made the decision to cross party lines to end the block tactic. Most Republicans contended that the thirty four billion dollar measure should be paid for with spending cuts rather than tacked onto the national debt. Democrats argued that the over ten percent nationwide jobless rate was a national emergency and exempt from budget offset requirements.

Some conservatives theorize that the jobless benefits program has morphed into an entitlement program over the years. The program which started in the great depression era was originally intended as a temporary bridge to help the jobless until an economic recovery could put the majority of people back to work. But now, in some of the hardest-hit states, the long-term unemployed have been able to collect benefits for almost two years.

Some conservatives argue that the long term availability of unemployment insurance has turned it into something akin to welfare. Some argue that the program is subject to abuse and is counterproductive for encouraging people to actually look for work. Republican Senator John Kyl of Arizona said that to continue to pay people unemployment compensation is a disincentive for people to seek new work.

Some people will make the choice to live off of three hundred dollars a week, a little less than sixteen thousand dollars a year, and would rather get paid to sit around the house instead of going out and getting a real job. With twelve hundred dollars a month people will be able to pay for their mortgage or rent, utilities, food, transportation cost, entertainment cost, medical care, and other miscellaneous and incidental items. Unless somebody is über thrifty or living in a cardboard box or some combination of two and then some, not very many people will be satisfied with getting unemployment assistance of three hundred dollars weekly.

It is true that people getting their unemployment compensation may not be as desperate as their counterparts who aren’t getting anything. Somebody getting unemployment wouldn’t settle for any job earning the federal minimum wage. A lot of people would rather use unemployment as a stop gap while they look for a job that they would be more inclined to keep and earn a decent living off of. Keeping people desperate only benefits employers who would be willing to take advantage of desperate people.

If our conservative politicians believe that desperate people work harder and are therefore better for our economy, wouldn’t desperate wealthy people be willing to work harder to make profits be good for the economy was well?

Lowering tax rates on the wealthy gives them a disincentive to make the kind of investments necessary to keep the economy functioning at peek efficiency. Using the same logic that has been applied to the unemployed, the wealthy have no incentive to work harder for their healthy profits when they are given tax breaks that allow them to keep more from making less. The incentive to do better, to earn more through a hard day of investing, is reduced.

The lost revenue of the tax cuts is estimated to run into the trillions of dollars. And that was money that did not need to be paid for with cuts elsewhere in the budget. The trillions of dollars that could’ve gone to the government simply evaporated. And now some of us want to focus on a fraction of that sum in order to pay for the unemployed who are just being paid much too well to get a job. The hypocrisy is amazing when you stop and think about it.

Thursday, July 22, 2010 - Posted by | Life, Thoughts

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