Now Republicans and Democrats are arguing about how to extend unemployment beyond the 99 weeks already given to the jobless whose checks are about to stop. Democrats say that the payments stimulate the economy and that Republicans seeking fiscal sanity and personal responsibility are heartless (predictable), and Republicans say they want to keep the checks flowing as long as we figure out where to make some commensurate cuts elsewhere in the budget to pay for all this largess (also predictable).
While the Republican idea is better, as someone who has had to go on the dehumanizing dole after a job loss, I’d like to see a law passed that ends unemployment insurance after two years, or 104 weeks. This is not heartless. Two years is a long time. People who have been jobless for the last 99 weeks have become de facto wards of the state, and that’s not good for anyone, not least them.
Studies show that most people don’t start looking for work again until their benefits are close to running out, so it is probable that the real economic stimulus will come when people are forced to get back to work. This won’t turn the economy around all by itself, of course, but it will help.
Endless benefits are a powerful disincentive to rejoining the workforce, even when the pay is less than what you can earn in a job. We can always make exceptions to the two-year rule for a few true hardship cases, but we will not end this chronic joblessness if we subsidize it ad infinitum.