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Reduced weeks of unemployment insurance is an awful idea

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Charlie Riedel/AP/Fie

(Read caption) Job seekers attend a career fair in Overland Park, Kan. the average number of weeks of joblessness among the unemployed—40.9 weeks—has never been higher, yet conservatives are proposing to reduce the number of weeks the unemployed can receive benefits, Bernstein argues.

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In the most recent jobs report, we hit a new, albeit unenviable, world’s record: the average number of weeks of joblessness among the unemployed—40.9 weeks—has never been higher (see figure).*

So, what do conservatives do?  They snap into action and propose a holiday gift for the unemployed and their families: a reduction of 40 weeks of unemployment insurance (UI) benefits and, for stocking stuffers, unprecedented, preposterous rules for UI eligibility.

It was enough to make NELP yelp (the National Employment Law Project**):

Federal unemployment insurance programs currently provide 34 to 73 weeks of assistance to unemployed workers in every state, depending on the state’s unemployment rate, after workers exhaust [26 weeks of] state unemployment insurance. Representative Camp’s proposal would cut Tier II of the federal assistance (14 weeks available to workers in every state) as well as Tier IV (six weeks available to states with high unemployment). The proposal would also allow the last leg of the federal unemployment insurance extension – the 13 to 20 weeks of Extended Benefits in the hardest-hit states – to expire. As a result, states with the highest unemployment, including Representative Camp’s home state of Michigan, would face a triple-whammy of cuts to three different pieces of the federal programs.

Their bill also requires recipients who lack a high-school degree to enroll in a GED program or lose benefits; it would also allow states to make applicants take a drug test.  I suspect that you, like me, agree that people should have at least a high school degree and not take drugs.  But don’t the long-term unemployed have enough problems without this kind of harassment and political grandstanding?

The whole thing makes no sense.  The conservative meme about UI allowing unemployed people to scoff at all the available jobs out there is belied by the fact that there are four job seekers per job opening.  Under such demand constrained conditions, conservatives, including Alan Greenspan, have typically supported UI extensions.  In fact, we’ve never failed to extend with the jobless rate this high.

It’s bad for families who need the money, and it’s bad for the macro economy, since they spend the money.  I mean, who’d want to both hurt out-of-work families and further restrain the recovery?  Why would anyone want to do that??!!

Oh…right…never mind.


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