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home : opinion : opinion July 23, 2016


12/9/2012 6:01:00 AM
Editorial Column: A government program worth renewing

Alan Choate
News Editor


The "fiscal cliff" discussions have included a lot of hand-wringing over who should pay what in taxes. There's also that old stalwart, "entitlement reform," which is often a topic of discussion but rarely the subject of concrete action. But relatively little has been said about an important program that will go away if nothing is done: extended unemployment insurance.

The standard benefit for those suddenly out of a job is 26 weeks, but in 2009, Congress extended it to 99 weeks because of the sheer number of people out of work and the dismal job market. The federal program has been renewed a couple of times, and it should be renewed again as part of whatever budget deal gets made.

Let's not get sentimental about the reasons why. It should be renewed because it's one of the most effective economic programs in the government's arsenal.

Yes, it's expensive. A one-year extension would cost a reported $30 billion, and it's cost $520 billion over the last five years.

That money is doled out in $300 to $400 weekly increments to people all over the country. It allows people to stay in their houses or apartments, put gas in their cars, keep food on the table and the power and water running while maintaining a little bit of dignity as they look for work.

Most importantly, that money gets spent. A Labor Department study under the Bush administration found that each dollar of unemployment benefits generates two dollars of economic activity. Another study estimated that in 2009-2010, benefits for the long-term unemployed bolstered GDP by 0.8 percent and helped create 800,000 jobs.

The employment picture is improving. The most recent figures available said weekly applications for unemployment assistance dropped to 370,000, which apparently is a level that suggests modest hiring. Still, 5 million people remain on unemployment. Phasing them out of a safety net program that injects cash directly into the economy would be a sucker punch to our anemic recovery.

Of course, asking a politician to stop posturing and actually get something done is like asking mud not to be so dirty. Still, there's reason for optimism here. Any elected leader who stands in the way of extending this program will turn millions of people into lifetime political enemies.

•••

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who was publicly flogged for saying that the age of the Earth is "one of the great mysteries," has backtracked and now agrees with the overwhelming scientific data showing that our planet is at least 4.5 billion years old.

He also complained that it was a "gotcha" type question, insisting that if he had 30 minutes to sit down and think about it, he would've come up with a better answer. Besides, he said, he meant his remarks in the context of the "theological debate" over the Earth's creation.

Weak.

Look, before this happened, if someone had asked me the age of the Earth, I would've said, "I don't know. It's in the billions somewhere." But I wouldn't need 30 minutes to think out an answer. I'd need however much time it took to get to an Internet-connected device, plus about 30 seconds to look it up.

Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was mocked for his "known knowns, unknown knowns, known unknowns" speech, but I've always thought it was one of the smarter things to come out of his mouth. Knowing what you know, and what you don't, is the mark of a well-ordered mind. I wish more of our elected leaders possessed that quality.


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Reader Comments

Posted: Monday, December 17, 2012
Article comment by: Anson's Nephew

“AN maybe they got a job.”

No, I doubt that since they are showing up like the proverbial bad rash all over other threads. But it is curious, a week now and no responses from the usual suspects. Has me puzzled.


Posted: Sunday, December 16, 2012
Article comment by: Calling All

AN maybe they got a job.

Posted: Thursday, December 13, 2012
Article comment by: That's Normal

@ Anson's Nephew

That's normal for them. Rant and rave to no end, then no answer when faced with a legitimate question.


Posted: Thursday, December 13, 2012
Article comment by: Anson's Nephew

Very curious – four days since I asked for input on getting us “parasites” off the public dole and not one of the usual suspects has shown up to comment. What’s up with that? They always have so much to say and suddenly they are quiet. Curious.

Posted: Tuesday, December 11, 2012
Article comment by: Frank Lee Speaking

@Unemployement Insurance is The Better Of Lesser Evils

So at what point do unemployment "extended benefits"......unemployment benefits that the recipient did not contibute toward, become just another welfare check? Can we get an idea of just how many times and for how long they will keep being extended?


Posted: Tuesday, December 11, 2012
Article comment by: Anson's Nephew

“… or we could have elected Romney and had real jobs created.”

Unfortunately those jobs would have been created in China. Willard’s history bears that out and he is still at it – see Sensata in Illinois and his purchase of an expensive SUV built in Slovakia.


Posted: Tuesday, December 11, 2012
Article comment by: Anson's Nephew

Did I say you weren't? And why no answer to my proposal - you usually have so much to say?

Posted: Monday, December 10, 2012
Article comment by: origional kingman resident

@ Anson

"So you would be fine with the Republicans shutting down Social Security and Medicare because they are “entitlements” and no one ....."

I was simply correcting a statement of fact.
Social Security and Medicare are, according to the federal government, entitlement programs.


Posted: Monday, December 10, 2012
Article comment by: Anson's Nephew

“Actually, according to the federal government, Social Security and Medicare are entitlement programs.”

So you would be fine with the Republicans shutting down Social Security and Medicare because they are “entitlements” and no one (particularly as one person here likes to call us “parasites”) deserves to receive anything from the government – ever – no matter the reason. You know like wounded veterans and little kids needing medical care.

Or maybe there is a different solution. For years I have advocated removing the earnings cap on Social Security making ever dollar obtained (note I did not say earned) taxable for FICA as a permanent fix for Social Security and no one has yet been able to explain why that would be a bad idea. You know fairness and all that.

But in retrospect I think what we need to do is restructure both systems so that you are able to take out only as much as you put in. Of course I realize a few people who rave here regularly, who thrive on using Medicare and Social Security would be out of luck, but so be it. I too would lose my Social Security – but I think I could hang on to Medicare for another year, maybe two (the curse of being relatively healthy).

So, readers, what do you think? Is it time to remove the parasites (as FLS is fond of calling us) from the system by allowing us to only take out as much as we put in? And should we have to pay back any excess we have already drawn? Any thoughts?

w/c264


Posted: Monday, December 10, 2012
Article comment by: Origional kingman Resident

@Trained Observer

Actually, according to the federal government, Social Security and Medicare are entitlement programs.


Posted: Sunday, December 9, 2012
Article comment by: Patriot WES

Alan, by now you have exposed yourself as a liberal. What is your fixation with Marco Rubio and his statement about how old the earth is? Out of all the things this country needs to worry about and you are stuck on that! Your extending statement about unemployment and making them into a political enemy. The idea here is to get people back to work, but why go to work if the government is going to pay people not to? But I will admit, with Obama in office it will be hard to find a job, so maybe you are right! Guess we will have to wait another four years to find out if the great Socialist State of America by Obama works or not!

Posted: Sunday, December 9, 2012
Article comment by: Linda Athens

Yeah, 99 weeks of unemployment benefits or we could have elected Romney and had real jobs created. Like the Transcanada.

And those latest job stats - less people even looking so that is what that's all about.

There is no way to sugar coat obama in office for a second term. It is like a train wreck and another train comes along and wrecks on top of the first wreck.

We don't know who this guy is, where he is from but one thing we do know. He is here to destroy America and he is doing a damned good job at it so far,. The only thing I have seen he has succeeded at.


Posted: Sunday, December 9, 2012
Article comment by: Unemployement Insurance is The Better Of Lesser Evils

The Miner has a good intelligent editor in Alan. Thank God at least one in the editorial staff is intelligent.

Alan's assessment of unemployment insurance is right on. The only thing he failed to mention is what happens if these payments are cut off. Well, all you small government, small government people these people will just shift from federal burden to state and local burden. The unemployeed will be forced to ask for Aid to Dependent Children, AHCCS, food stamps, emergency room for doctor visits (guess who pays when that happens at KRMC).


Posted: Sunday, December 9, 2012
Article comment by: Trained Observer

Some people do not understand that unemployment, social security and other programs are not "entitlements". These are things that provide a safety net and they are things that people have paid for out of wages. Those that have not experienced job loss or unemployment often seem to think that unemployment benefits encourage people to not look for jobs. The fact is that there are fewer jobs to be had and in areas that have had double digit unemployment rates in the last few years (Las Vegas, Riverside County, CA, San Bernardino, CA, oh yeah and Mohave Co.) this means life or death for some families.

Posted: Sunday, December 9, 2012
Article comment by: David Gaither

Alan Choate wrote:

"Labor Department study under the Bush administration found that each dollar of unemployment benefits generates two dollars of economic activity."

Now let me see if I understand this correctly. The taxpayers, (you know...those who work or create businesses, so other people can work and earn an income), will have their tax money given out to those who aren't working, so that it will create more money in return. Is that about right?

Well let's look at the math. $1 tax money goes out, and $2 in economic activity is created.Well that sounds pretty good for the tax payers! Oh, wait a minute...now taxes has to be paid on that $2. So, at, maybe an average of 20% tax rate...$0.40 goes back to the treasury. Now let me see...$1.00 goes out and $0.40 comes back. Sounds like a good deal for those receiving the $1.00 but not so good for those hard working tax payers...now does it?

Typical political thinking...got to keep buying those votes! Keep redistributing that wealth!




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