Democracy Soup

Making sense out of the world of politics

Revising unemployment programs involves wresting power from clueless Southern governors

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Originally published on on Tue, 02/24/2009 – 11:33am

Texas Governor Rick Perry is right on one statement, but he doesn’t understand as to why that’s true.

“My instinct is that a whole lot would rather have a good-paying job than they would unemployment insurance.”

Though there’s one clarification: EVERYONE would rather have a good-paying job than unemployment insurance. The problem with Perry — and the other Southern governors more concerned about their political futures — is that while there aren’t the good-paying jobs, they would rather give their citizens none of the above.

Anyone who has been on unemployment insurance, anyone who has dealt with the archaic rules, the startling restrictions on what supplemental income you can make, and the layers of bureaucracy would much rather have a good-paying job that will stick around.

Perry (Texas), Haley Barbour (Mississippi), Mark Sanford (South Carolina), and Bobby Jindal (Louisiana) have been the loudest supporters. But Phil Bredesen (D-Tennessee) and Sonny Perdue (Georgia) are also talking about not taking the unemployment benefits.

Unemployment compensation has been generally unfair: never enough weeks, not enough money, and too many arcane rules. George W. Bush seemed cruelly unaware, even for him, of the effects on real people in not extending unemployment compensation. And the amounts aren’t designed to live off of long-term.

Unlike all these governors, I’ve received unemployment compensation. And it’s not fun at all. But we are really in a bind, even in these Southern states. These people need some help, and the governors choose not to see the suffering.

But some governors, even Democratic ones, have this view that the unemployment compensation is too much of a burden to fully support. Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, a Democrat, said on “Fox News Sunday”:

“I’m not sure that we can, over the long run, cope with the high unemployment compensation standard that this mandates for states.”

High standard? Unless Pennsylvania’s rules are substantially better for the workers than any of the other states, Rendell’s standards aren’t that high.

We’ve already seen stories about how employers are fighting harder to deny legitimate unemployment claims. We are seeing some companies get rid of workers, even when they can afford to keep them on. And the standards, even in a normal economy, are miserable, much less in a deep recession.

The objectors are mostly Republicans, but they say they have their principles. They don’t mind if we spend money in Iraq, on obsolete weapon systems, but they object to spending money here in the United States. Then they allow money to be spent in the United States, reluctantly, but they draw the line on unemployment compensation, which offers very little to those who really need it.

After all, as Jon Stewart pointed out in last night’s Daily Show, Jindal is being offered $3.8 billion and will accept a little over $3.7 billion.

The easy joke here would be to say to solve the problem by making the governors unemployed. But every one of these governors, Republican or Democratic, have much more money than anyone received unemployment and fewer financial problems. The governors know, even if they lose their jobs, that being an ex-governor still pays quite well.

The best time to fix the unemployment compensation would be just after a major recession and/or depression. Unfortunately, it’s the last time we addressed this by starting up the unemployment compensation program through the Social Security Act of 1935. After all, if people are in the system who aren’t normally there, they will see first-hand that we need revisions.

And one of those revisions is to take away so much control to the individual states, state rights be damned. This program involves federal money and federal taxes; it should be run as a federal program.

The governors who are whining won’t say the real reason for their objections. Since businesses pay into the funds, the unethical businesses want the unemployment compensation to dish out as little money as possible to “save them money.”

We show our true selves by how we treat the least of us, those who are suffering the most. With the current unemployment compensation standard, we aren’t in a good light. And the Southern governors currently on display want that to be even worse than the currently low standard.


Written by democracysoup

February 24, 2009 at 11:33 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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