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Mythmaking about unemployment insurance

In a recent radio interview, House Speaker Thom Tillis said that he talks to GOP gubernatorial nominee Pat McCrory almost every day. It shows.

Take for instance McCrory’s recent mean-spirited statements about the unemployed. They sound eerily reminiscent of the ill-informed attitudes that Tillis gave voice to recently when he made the nutty statement that if he’d fired his staffers who violated ethics laws they would have qualified for 99 weeks of unemployment.

What is is about conservative politicians and their contempt for the unemployed and the insurance system that keeps so many of them from losing everything?

Here’s the truth about this issue: There are undoubtedly abuses in the unemployment insurance system. Some workers have certainly taken advantage of the system over the years — just as many employers have as well. This is true with any large human bureaucracy — public or private.

But the indisputable fact remains that unemployment insurance is a modest program that pays very modest, subsistence-level benefits (less than $300/week on average) to a small minority (around 30%) of the unemployed. Eligibility standards are tough and the vast majority of workers who collect benefits do so only for a short period.

Moreover and not surprisingly, the biggest single determinant of the length of time for claimants to collect benefits is (Surprise!) the state of the economy. When jobs are plentiful and available, average stays on unemployment fall. When jobs are harder to find, they go up.

This is because of another simple and indisputable fact: Americans want to work and they understand that they’re better off when they do.

Let’s hope that somehow, eventually, these simple truths sink into the brains of conservative politicians like Tillis and McCrory.

One Comment


  1. James

    July 13, 2012 at 2:07 pm

    The attitude runs deep. McCrory, Duke Energy. Win at any cost. More thoughts here.

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