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December 8th, 2010

Extending Unemployment Benefits Is Bad for the Unemployed

By Rob Gettemy

In the name of compassion, the government has destroyed generations of people by creating government dependence.  We see examples of this in virtually everything the government does, but today let’s focus on the unemployment benefit extensions.  Now, I realize that very few elected Republican politicians have the courage to discuss the consequences of individuals receiving long-term unemployment benefits.  To even bring it up opens the politician up to being accused of hurting the poor or hurting the unemployed just so they can give more money to their rich friends.  But if Republicans won’t stand up for true compassion for the unemployed, who will?

You might be scratching your head by now, but stay with me.  By extending unemployment benefits beyond the original 13 weeks, unemployment benefits move from a helping hand to a handout.  Further, they become “handcuffs” that keep many of the unemployed from being willing to start over at a lower wage.  Unfortunately, the allure of the “easy government money” is too powerful for a significant portion of the unemployed.  However, the longer they stay unemployed, the harder it will be to get a job at the same level they were at previously.

Most of us understand that in our careers, we start out in an entry level role, work hard, take on more responsibility, act prudently, and demonstrate flexibility and then we get a chance to move up.  For some, that path is relatively straight and uninterrupted.  But the reality for many, if not most, is that path has fits and starts along the way.  It is kind of like playing a game of Chutes and Ladders.  You may recall from your youth that in Chutes and Ladders, you start out at the bottom, and you move laterally for a while, but sometimes you jump up a level.  That may happen fast if you hit a ladder, or it may be a little slower by continually taking your turn and moving forward.  Occasionally, you also hit a chute in your career.  Like in the game, the chute sends you down or closer to the beginning.

While unemployment benefits are designed to cushion that blow for a short while (thirteen weeks), these benefits are not designed as a replacement for actual work.  Like in the game, when you take a ride down the chute, you are likely to be bruised emotionally and financially.  The best thing you can do, of course, is to immediately take stock of your situation and start executing a plan within a few days or at most a few weeks.  Like all good plans, the unemployed person’s plan should have more than one scenario, and deal with potential pitfalls.  One of those pitfalls is that you need to start over at a lower level.  The key though, is to figure that out as quickly as possible so you can get back on the path to where you ultimately want to be.  If at most, you have 13 weeks of unemployment insurance, you are likely to start executing on that plan immediately.

On the other hand, if you have nearly two years of unemployment benefits, you may delay making any really hard career decisions for well over a year and a half.  What happens during that time?  The employee’s skills become outdated, their self-esteem is likely sapped because they know they are dependent on big brother, and their employability at their previous level becomes much less likely.  Back to the game, it is as if they are on square one, but not even rolling the dice to move up the board.  They end up losing nearly two years of rebuilding their careers instead of losing a few weeks.

The consequences don’t end with the employee though; they also affect his or her family.  Just think how devastating it is to a young person to see his or her parent spend months barely trying to work on their career, and possibly outright talking about how they are going to wait to look for a job until they are closer to the end of their “benefits.”  This sends a message to their children that it is perfectly acceptable to take the fruits of someone else’s labor.  This ultimately may lead to generations of dependency.  We’ve seen that from the welfare state that was installed in the “Great Society” days.  What a poor choice of words to describe what really the opposite of a great society is.

Now, you may think this is not really happening.  After all, who would take advantage of the system?  Unfortunately, many who would have never dreamed of taking advantage get seduced by the allure of free money.  The proof can be found by talking to employers across this great state.  I’ve talked too many in the past nine months who would like to hire entry level workers, but cannot find them.  Yes, they have plenty of people who come through their doors to interview, but in far too many cases, these folks simply want to meet the unemployment benefit requirement to “look” for work as opposed to actually working.  One employer with several hundred employees says that getting people willing to take a job now is as hard as it was when we had less than 2% unemployment in Cedar Rapids.  Others that have indicated that they have people who seem to want to get fired because they know they can get 99 weeks of benefit checks.  If they are fired for cause, they, in theory, are not entitled to unemployment compensation, but the reality is, you’ll be hard pressed to find an employer who will tell you they have any chance of winning at an unemployment denial hearing even if the former employee has been a thief.

Let me close with a thought on what it means to the long-term well-being of the unemployed worker.  As an employer, if I am looking at two resumes, and I see a person who was downsized, but within a few weeks took an entry level job, I am going to think highly of that person.  On the other hand, if I see a person who was downsized, and then took an entry level job after two years, rightfully or wrongfully, I am going to think to myself that this person made no effort while they were getting unemployment compensation.  You can guess who I’d hire.  Who would you hire?

So, Republicans, please do the compassionate thing.  Please make it more palatable for an unemployed person to take a job that will get them back on the path to building a career instead of making it possible for them to do irreparable damage to their career through long term-unemployment.

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About the Author

Rob Gettemy

Rob Gettemy is the founder and owner of 1 Million for Jesus Christ, a Christian apparel company. In addition, Rob teaches entrepreneurship at the University of Iowa and was a candidate for US House, Iowa District 2 in the 2010 Republican primary. Rob attended the 912 rally in Washington DC in 2009 and also attended the 8-28 event in 2010. Rob has been an outspoken critic of liberal policies his entire adult life.

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