FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Targeting the Unemployed

“When a great many people are unable to find work, unemployment results.”

Attributed to Calvin Coolidge

The unemployed in many states have been given what they, at least, hope is a once in a lifetime opportunity to help the states and federal government solve their budgetary problems, an opportunity that hunger and homelessness may keep them from fully appreciating.

Michigan led the way when on March 29th Governor Rick Snyder signed a bill that says beginning January 2012 the number of weeks the unemployed will receive benefits will drop from 26 weeks to 20 weeks. It is estimated this will save the state $300 million each year. Since Michigan has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country at more than 10%, a significant number of its citizens will be given the opportunity beginning next year to participate in bringing government spending under control. They will also be benefitting those who might employ them, according to supporters of the legislation, since reducing the unemployment benefits will reduce the unemployment taxes paid by employers. It is a win-win situation although the employers will appreciate it somewhat more than the unemployed. Michigan is not the only state addressing the issue.

Florida boasts an unemployment rate of 11.5% and its House of Representative proposes to not only reduce the number of weeks for which unemployment benefits will be paid from 26 to 20 weeks but to provide that if the unemployment rate falls the number of weeks that benefits are paid also falls. If the rate drops to below 5% members of the below 5% group will only be able to collect unemployment benefits for 12 weeks. It is not clear why those who remain unemployed when the rate drops should pay a price for the good fortune of the 6.5% who are no longer a member of their club. Supporters of the House version say by reducing the number of people receiving unemployment benefits, businesses will do more hiring. The unemployed will eagerly await that outcome. (This proposal is not yet law. The Florida Senate has passed a less restrictive version of reform that neither shortens the number of weeks of payments nor penalizes recipients of unemployment as the rate of unemployment falls. Negotiations between the two chambers will determine how it will end up.) Meanwhile in the mid-West there’s the “Show Me” state-Missouri.

Missouri is a conscience driven state. Missouri has an unemployment rate of more than 9 percent. Legislators in that state are more concerned about the national debt than about their unemployed. Missouri legislators have blocked a vote that would have permitted the state to accept federal funds to extend unemployment benefits from 79 weeks to 99 weeks. Jim Lembke is one of the state senators filibustering the legislation. Speaking on behalf of the opponents of taking the money as well as the unemployed who are in the district he represents he said: “This is about sending a message to the federal government from the state of Missouri that enough is enough. The federal government is sending us money they don’t have.” If it is money the federal government does not have then presumably it is money the unemployed could not have used anyway. (Mr. Lembke also plans to take steps to try to keep the state from accepting $190 million in federal education money, efforts that will earn him the thanks of school children throughout Missouri.) If Mr. Lembke is successful, 10,202 people will immediately lose their benefits and, by the end of this year, another 24,000 people will have lost their benefits. Mr. Lembke, on the other hand, will have helped the federal government save $105 million for which it, if not his unemployed constituents, will be grateful.

Wisconsin has not reduced benefits but has taken steps to reign in costs. The Wisconsin Legislative Audit Bureau discovered that in the 2009 fiscal year there were more than $9 million in overpayments of unemployment benefit payments of which $222,000 went to 37 prison inmates who though unemployed, are not the sort of unemployed that unemployment payments are designed to help. (The same study showed that there were 33 inmates who received food stamp benefits, a surprising result since one of the benefits of being in prison is that room and board are furnished by the state and food stamps would seem to be unnecessary.) The state agencies that are responsible for having made the payments say that they are taking steps to recover the money and may even pursue criminal charges. One can only wish them success in their efforts. Helping the unemployment fund stay solvent by recovering money from those who collected it fraudulently is far preferable to keeping it solvent by reducing benefits. Just ask the unemployed in Florida, Michigan and Missouri.

CHRISTOPHER BRAUCHLI is a lawyer in Boulder, Colorado. He can be reached at: brauchli.56@post.harvard.edu

 

 

More articles by:

December 17, 2018
Susan Abulhawa
Marc Lamont Hill’s Detractors are the True Anti-Semites
Jake Palmer
Viktor Orban, Trump and the Populist Battle Over Public Space
Martha Rosenberg
Big Pharma Fights Proposal to Keep It From Looting Medicare
David Rosen
December 17th: International Day to End Violence against Sex Workers
Binoy Kampmark
The Case that Dare Not Speak Its Name: the Conviction of Cardinal Pell
Dave Lindorff
Making Trump and Other Climate Criminals Pay
Bill Martin
Seeing Yellow
Julian Vigo
The World Google Controls and Surveillance Capitalism
ANIS SHIVANI
What is Neoliberalism?
James Haught
Evangelicals Vote, “Nones” Falter
Vacy Vlanza
The Australian Prime Minister’s Rapture for Jerusalem
Martin Billheimer
Late Year’s Hits for the Hanging Sock
Weekend Edition
December 14, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
A Tale of Two Cities
Peter Linebaugh
The Significance of The Common Wind
Bruce E. Levine
The Ketamine Chorus: NYT Trumpets New Anti-Suicide Drug
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Fathers and Sons, Bushes and Bin Ladens
Kathy Deacon
Coffee, Social Stratification and the Retail Sector in a Small Maritime Village
Nick Pemberton
Praise For America’s Second Leading Intellectual
Robert Hunziker
The Yellow Vest Insurgency – What’s Next?
Patrick Cockburn
The Yemeni Dead: Six Times Higher Than Previously Reported
Nick Alexandrov
George H. W. Bush: Another Eulogy
Brian Cloughley
Principles and Morality Versus Cash and Profit? No Contest
Michael F. Duggan
Climate Change and the Limits of Reason
Victor Grossman
Sighs of Relief in Germany
Ron Jacobs
A Propagandist of Privatization
Robert Fantina
What Does Beto Have Against the Palestinians?
Richard Falk – Daniel Falcone
Sartre, Said, Chomsky and the Meaning of the Public Intellectual
Andrew Glikson
Crimes Against the Earth
Robert Fisk
The Parasitic Relationship Between Power and the American Media
Stephen Cooper
When Will Journalism Grapple With the Ethics of Interviewing Mentally Ill Arrestees?
Jill Richardson
A War on Science, Morals and Law
Ron Jacobs
A Propagandist of Privatization
Evaggelos Vallianatos
It’s Not Easy Being Greek
Nomi Prins 
The Inequality Gap on a Planet Growing More Extreme
John W. Whitehead
Know Your Rights or You Will Lose Them
David Swanson
The Abolition of War Requires New Thoughts, Words, and Actions
J.P. Linstroth
Primates Are Us
Bill Willers
The War Against Cash
Jonah Raskin
Doris Lessing: What’s There to Celebrate?
Ralph Nader
Are the New Congressional Progressives Real? Use These Yardsticks to Find Out
Binoy Kampmark
William Blum: Anti-Imperial Advocate
Medea Benjamin – Alice Slater
Green New Deal Advocates Should Address Militarism
John Feffer
Review: Season 2 of Trump Presidency
Rich Whitney
General Motors’ Factories Should Not Be Closed. They Should Be Turned Over to the Workers
Christopher Brauchli
Deported for Christmas
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail