Unemployment Benefits In 2014 A Hammock For The Lazy?

Are unemployment benefits in 2014 only providing a hammock for the lazy? This is the contention by some Republicans who believe that the unemployment extension should not be passed by Congress. But what is the true story?

In a related report by The Inquisitr, the 2014 unemployment extension debate has Republicans claiming the recent unemployment rate drop supports their position.

While many people envision unemployment benefits as being a trampoline, Paul Ryan started the hammock comparison back in 2011:

“We are at a moment, where if government’s growth is left unchecked and unchallenged, America’s best century will be considered our past century. This is a future in which we will transform our social safety net into a hammock, which lulls able-bodied people into lives of complacency and dependency.”

Progressives generally disagree with equating unemployment benefits to laying around in a hammock. For example, the NY Times calls this the “hammock fallacy” and claims Republicans like Paul Ryan “would have us believe that the hammock created by the social safety net is the reason so many Americans remain trapped in poverty. But the evidence says nothing of the kind.” Yet, even while saying this, the author also admits the evidence does in fact favor the Republican position in a very small way:

“Food stamps, it seems, do lead to a reduction in work and working hours, but the effect is modest. Medicaid has little, if any, effect on work effort.”

Although the NY Times avoids the issue of unemployment benefits, the Daily Kos also points out that for the poorest of Americans the unemployment extension would still only provide benefits covering 65 percent of the previous income levels, which requires dipping into savings. For someone making less than $18,000 a year this could have devastating results:

“Lack of a safety net then quickly requires selling vehicles, thus further limiting job choices; and losing homes, as those lucky enough to have mortgages are foreclosed and those renting are evicted, also making getting and keeping a job harder.”

The major issue at hand is not whether unemployment benefits should exist at all. Both sides agree that a social safety net should exist. The real question is determining how long should society provide this safety net. Republicans believe the old plan was long enough, while Democrats believe people should be given more time.

This writer knows exactly how hard things can be. I’ve previously helped people in need by allowing them to stay in our guest room for months for free. Just this past weekend I purchased a scooter for a homeless man so he could drive to a new job. He has unemployment benefits, but it would have taken a month and half of benefits to afford the vehicle, and his new job is half way across town. So I’m obviously sympathetic to the needs of the unemployed. Those who are outside the labor market for an extended period may lose the ability to reconnect and get a job due to their circumstances. These people are hardly lazy by any definition, and are certainly not laying around in a hammock all day.

Yet, at the same time, I can understand both sides of the argument. I know of households where everyone trades food stamps for money to purchase illegal drugs and alcohol; a scenario that some progressives dismiss as mere myth. I know of others who prefer to live on unemployment benefits and play video games rather than seek a job. Unfortunately, in my experience the moochers have outnumbered the honest workers stuck in a bind, but I’d hope that’s not the case on a national scale. While Republicans may highlight the bad apples, that’s not enough reason to punish everyone unless it’s proven the moochers are the vast majority in fact, not just in political rhetoic.

In the end, my personal experience is not a reason for the Republicans in Congress to deny the unemployment extension, nor do I think they should. Instead, they should attempt to find a middle ground with Democrats since doing nothing is not an option for the 1.3 million and counting Americans who are effected. Besides granting the unemployment extension, or creating an extension limited to certain hardship scenarios, a third alternative would be to create State level work programs where Americans serve their local communities with cleaning, free babysitting, restoration projects, or anything that does not require too many physical materials to accomplish. These temporary jobs would be on a part-time basis so everyone could attempt to find long term careers. In return, the wages would be exactly what they would receive under an unemployment extension.

Do you think that unemployment benefits in 2014 have become a hammock for the lazy? Or do you think politicians should get out of their own cushy hammocks and focus on finding a middle ground for the unemployment extension?