Democracy Soup

Making sense out of the world of politics

Michigan, other states going down dangerous road in cutting unemployment benefits

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So how long were you unemployed? If not you, how about your neighbor? Or are you still unemployed?

In the wake of the worst unemployment of a few generations, one state took the bold step of cutting, yes cutting, unemployment benefits. The temptation would be to award that honor to a Southern state that pays out very little and makes qualifying rather difficult.

But no, that “honor” goes to Michigan, the state with consistently higher unemployment than most states.

Starting in 2012, newly unemployed people will get 20 weeks instead of 26 weeks — in Michigan. Really?

This is the time to disclose two key facts: 1) I have lived in MI and have friends and family there; and 2) up until recently, I have been drawing unemployment.

But even if you haven’t set foot in Michigan, and have been fortunate not to have to receive unemployment benefits — this is still a bad way to go.

Unemployment benefits allow people to spend money in the economy. The shopkeeper may not have lost his/her job, but will be hurting if the neighbors don’t have money to spend. Unemployment benefits are a great way to keep local economies going.

Republicans, especially the governors who are striking out against workers, don’t like unemployment insurance. There are pages and pages of insensitive comments made by GOPers on the subject. As hurtful as those comments are, they prove that sticks and stones do hurt more than words.

And Michigan certainly isn’t the only one going down this road. Florida, Arkansas, and other states are looking into reducing unemployment benefits.

The states are whining that they don’t have enough money in their unemployment fund. Of course, the states didn’t keep up those funds, as they are required, during better times. And these Republican governors certainly don’t want to offend companies to pay more, even though companies pay into the funds.

Many who will be affected by these changes in these states voted for these Republican governors and House and Senate members. We’ve seen such economic masochism beforeĀ  — Reagan Democrats come to mind — but this level sets new highs, or lows, depending on your point of view.

Some of those people don’t think they will ever be in that circumstance, even if the writing is on the walls of our downtowns. So much for empathy. And there is a very good chance that some who voted for Michigan Governor Rick Snyder will be unemployed in 2012 and only be able to draw 20 weeks instead of 26 weeks. Wonder if they will notice even then.

For those voters who complain that the major parties are the same, and there isn’t much difference — well, every governor who have put the worker as enemy #1 are all Republican. Just sayin’.

We have had a series of political and economic events in the last couple of years where the “good guys” are Wall Street bankers and companies that sit on money rather than hiring people and the “bad guys” are people who never got an economic break in the 21 st century who continue to get punished by the system.

Behind the history book, Franklin D. Roosevelt had enough problems in trying to make things better. But FDR couldn’t imagine the headaches that Barack Obama has, and Obama has proven that he will never be half the leader FDR was.

The workers have been punished enough. Someone else needs to pay the piper so we can afford decent unemployment benefits.

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