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Why work?

April 13, 2010

I completely agree with an editorial in today’s Wall Street Journal, “Incentives Not to Work“.  Extending unemployment benefits just encourages some (many?) people to stay unemployed longer.  I have personally observed this.  A family member told me “I’m not looking for a job.  I can survive on unemployment checks.”  Thanks to the extension of benefits in 2009, she avoided finding a job for almost an entire year.

I know that many people believe that we should guarantee some minimum level of support for all people but I disagree.  If someone is capable of working, they should not receive government benefits.  Unemployment insurance was designed to be temporary while the recipient is finding a new job.  Making the support too high and providing it for too long backfires and suppresses ambition.  We are essentially paying people to stay at home.   This is true for people who have lost their jobs and for people who have never held a job.  Why work if the government will give you a check?  Almost everyone can work.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Scott Down permalink
    April 13, 2010 1:20 pm

    I liked that article. I agree with you (and Mr. Summers) that it’s a misconception that this would help. But it’s important to realise, as the article keenly pointed out, that it is based in compassion. I think for fiscal conservatives (which I consider myself to be) to make real headway against wrong-way Democratic plans such as this, we first have to consider their aim. In this case, their aim is correct: to help people. Can’t go wrong with a goal of helping people. Where things get messy is that the intention of helpfulness isn’t the same thing as being helpful – it’s not enough to want to help, the actual effect matters too.

    One major problem is that many Republicans are shooting the party in the foot by stubbornly refusing to acknowledge most ideas – positive or negative – that the Democrats are pushing forward. That gets us to a problem point because it becomes impossible to determine the legitimacy of Republicans taking issue with Democrats’ ideas. This leads to major problems when the Democrats come up with irresponsible, even if arguably well-intentioned, programs like this one.

    A real solution must go beyond “The Democrat Plan is Stupid”, though. A real solution must include ways to include positive Democrat goals (helping Americans in distress) without going down the same dangerous road the Democrats are leading toward.


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