A Conservative's Defense Of Unemployment Insurance

As expected, the issue of extending the already extended long-term unemployment benefits has become a political football.

Politicians and blowhard pundits on both sides of the political spectrum are using the hardships of honest Americans to either trash one party as fiscally irresponsible, or the other as lacking compassion.

Republicans, and a few Democrats, say they would pass the extension as long as it is paid for and does not add to the debt.

Fair enough.

There are plenty of useless programs and pork-laden bills (including the balance of unspent “Stimulus” money) from which this and all prior extensions could be funded.

The main theme from most Democrats now, aside from shamefully exploiting individual American’s stories to tug at the heart strings, is that unemployment benefits help to expand the economy.

Horse hockey.

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These benefits are not disposable income. The overwhelming majority of people who have had to grudgingly avail themselves of unemployment do not spend this money on trinkets, luxuries, or wanton pleasures. The amount of money received by these individuals just does not allow that. It is spent on the financial necessities most all of us have like mortgages, utilities, and food. The average national amount of a weekly unemployment benefit is $293, hardly enough to allow these people to “live it up.”

To receive unemployment, a person has to be terminated from their employer. Purely quitting a job does not make you eligible for these benefits. You have to be fired, due to company downsizing, elimination of positions, inability to perform your job due to medical reasons, etc.

Politicians on both sides have now tied the extension of the Bush tax rates (not tax “cuts”) with the unemployment benefits extension, using each as a bargaining chip. Both issues have merit, but the only thing they have in common is each holds Americans financially hostage in a political game of chicken.

This is despicable.

The current tax rates have been in place for almost a decade. Their implementation increased revenue taken in by the government during the Bush years, helping to reverse the recession during the early 2000’s.

The yearly average rate of unemployment from the time President Bush took office to his departure was 5.25%. A far cry from the current 9.6% under Obama. This disparity is all the more astounding considering the negative economic impact of 9/11 and the prosecution of two wars. Not until Democrats swept Congress in 2006 and Obama was elected did this rate start to drastically increase.

Recently, there has been a push by some members in Congress to eliminate the seedy practice of earmarks. How often have we heard about the steering of tax dollars to ridiculous projects through this abused, disgusting practice? How many earmarked projects did the late Senator Robert “KKK” Byrd obtain for his home state of West Virginia, many of which he arrogantly named after himself?

The elimination, or at least the regulation, of the earmark process would have been a substantial, meaningful, money-saving action. It would have stopped a practice which consistently adds to the national debt. Its elimination was, predictably, voted down. Struck by many of the same members of Congress who also claim any further extension of unemployment benefits should be paid for before passing them. Sounds fiscally prudent enough, but, certainly not at the expense of their precious ability to pass earmarks for their own self-serving political gain.

That is shear hypocrisy.

This jump in unemployment claims hasn’t happened because formerly gainfully employed people just wanted to take a break from working. It happened due to factors beyond their control.

The health of the economy, policies enacted by an anti-business administration, high corporate taxes, and yes, greediness of company decision makers all contributed to this decline of the American workforce.

Many companies unjustly use the perception of a bad economic climate to justify the elimination of formerly productive positions. They will downsize their workforce while heaping more responsibilities on less people while cutting back on salaries and benefits, claiming these decisions as necessary to maintain competitiveness and profitability. The easiest way for a company to help their bottom-line is to cut labor. Those who remain employed have no choice but to feel “lucky” they still have a job, though the effects to their financial situation and self-worth have been substantially and negatively altered.

As workers in this country, we are forced to pay taxes, some of which contribute to unemployment programs. It is akin to paying for mandatory insurance. As with many forms of insurance, most of us will remain fortunate enough to never need it, even though it means that money, our money, is lost to the black hole of government. We will never see any return on that forced “investment.”

Many people who now find themselves requiring unemployment have been paying into it for decades, never believing they would see the day when they may be in the unenviable position of actually needing it. Many have been paying into the system much longer than those who arrogantly and erroneously degrade these fellow citizens as “freeloaders.”

As workers, we base our lives and our futures around how much we can monetarily afford. Some people are more financially responsible than others, saving a nest-egg for emergencies, investing properly, or just living within one’s means.

Simply put, people need the money they’ve earned from work. Whether that need is satisfied from pay check to pay check, or lessened by some financial cushion, it ensures security for them and those who depend on them.

Do people who disdainfully look down on unemployment recipients really believe these people want or enjoy being unemployed, depleting their savings, draining retirement funds, and, in most cases, losing their health coverage (which then becomes another tremendous financial burden draining an already thin trickle of income.)? Having both parents work three McDonald’s-like jobs each, paying for day care, and still not able to meet their financial obligations is a frightful and demoralizing position in which to be.

These benefits are not “freebies.” All too often people on the outside looking in reduce one’s use of unemployment insurance to a comparison of receiving welfare. This is unfair. Though sometimes people really do need the assistance of welfare for drastic reasons, there is no denying that welfare fraud exists far too often, with able-bodied individuals lacking a basic work ethic, and some going so far as to have more children for the disgusting practice of milking the program for more money.

Yes, there are those collecting unemployment funds that deserve our disdain for abusing this system. I personally know two people, both in construction, who will work for 6 months, become eligible for unemployment, and tell their foreman to lay them off (who is only too happy to oblige them so he can save on labor costs.). They then loaf around for 6 months until the benefits run out, and start the cycle over again.

They are the ones who deserve to be denunciated, not some poor 50 year old father who has been dutifully working at the same company for 30 years, only to be let go due to “the economy,” when, in reality, his bosses just want an excuse to replace him with someone younger for half the price.

If you don’t believe that type of action happens, then you are ignoring reality to justify some misplaced sense of ideological moral outrage.

I’d rather that father use benefits to which he’s honestly contributed, then have that same money spent by a reckless bunch of politicians and bureaucratic goons.

Don’t be too quick to levy blanket scorn and judgment on people who have fallen into extremely frightening and unenviable circumstances through no fault of their own.

Vote your anger at the politicians who sank us into this economic quicksand in the first place.

And pray you and your family never find yourselves unemployed victims of their reckless actions.

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