Rooted in Reason: Nurturing the Seeds of Liberty

Unemployment benefits: the delicate balance by grassroothawaii
December 6, 2010, 8:20 am
Filed under: Economy | Tags: , ,

By Frances Nuar

One of the the major benefits of a contemporary civilized society is that we take care of each other in time of hardship and need. Formerly that role was fulfilled by families and communities, now we have delegated that task to government. When hardship hits, the economy goes bust, and jobs grow increasingly hard to find, we’ve agreed that part of each paycheck from those who do work go towards those who cannot find work to keep them on their feet. The whole idea being that if we were in need, we would want help as well. There is a common human bond that unites us with the desire to help feed, clothe, and shelter those who have come upon hardships.

As reported late last week, more and more people are unemployed, the latest data putting national unemployment at 9.8%, the highest level since April. Times are tough. Here in Hawaii unemployment is at 6.4%. Better than the national average, to be sure, but still no consolation to those without work. Regular benefits end after 26 weeks, while Emergency Unemployment Compensation lasts for 47 weeks, and is divided into three tiers, each of which must be exhausted before an individual moves to the next level.

But Congress just voted to not extend unemployment benefits, so as of November 30, anyone who exhausts their tier will not be able to move to the next tier.What then?

And then the question comes up that no one really wants to ask: how much public assistance is too much? How much help should we give people before they become complacent and don’t look quite as hard as they need to for work? Is it too much to ask someone to find a job outside his or her profession? Or take this example of a woman in “need” lamenting over her soon to expire unemployment benefits: Even with her husband’s job as a restaurant server and Panoke’s unemployment benefits and part-time paycheck, she still can’t afford to buy her teenager the iPod she wants for Christmas.

Really? Worried about buying an iPod when some people are worried about feeding their kids? I don’t see her getting many sympathy votes for extending unemployment benefits to buy iPods.

Because the issue always comes back to this: someone has to be working and making money to pay for those who aren’t making money. And let’s face it. If we didn’t have a limit to unemployment benefits, there would be those who would forever milk the system. Thus, unfortunately unemployment benefits have to strike that balance between enabling someone to remain complacent, and being the essential aid someone else needs before landing that job he or she is working so hard for. So if you have a job, be thankful. And if you don’t have a job, we’re here to help. Time to own that job market and make us proud. And don’t go buying iPod’s in the meantime.


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