Do conservatives genuinely believe that the unemployed are not trying to find work? That unemployment benefits make them lazy?
That’s a stunning accusation, given that there are six unemployed people for every job. Every job fair that I see in the news attracts long lines of would-be workers who haven’t yet given up hope that they will finally find a job. This is the deepest recession since the Reagan years.
Yet, Jim Bunning’s accusation has supporters. (I first heard the accusation from rightwing blogger Michelle Malkin, when she and I were on ABC’s “This Week.” See the video below.)
From the WaPo:
Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.) recently single-handedly held up the latest extension, a bill to keep unemployment benefits in place for 30 more days, saying Congress should find other cuts to cover its $10 billion price tag.
Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) did not join Bunning’s effort, but he defended his colleague’s point of view. Kyl told the Senate he questioned why anyone would see unemployment benefits as helpful to the economy, or to the job market.
“If anything, continuing to pay people unemployment compensation is a disincentive for them to seek new work,” Kyl said. “I am sure most of them would like work and probably have tried to seek it, but you can’t argue it is a job enhancer.”
Andrew Stettner, deputy director of the National Employment Law Center, says there’s a good reason people are out of work for so long. There are six unemployed Americans for every available job, he said.
“The primary reason people are out of work so long is a lack of jobs,” Stettner said.
The 14.9 million jobless Americans have been out of work an average of 29.7 weeks, just below January’s 30.2-week average. Those levels are the highest since the government began keeping those records in the 1950s, according to Stettner.
The ranks of the unemployed include Jerome Boyd, 48, a father of four who lives in Arlington. He was laid off in August from his job as a sous chef at Gaylord National Hotel at National Harbor.
He receives $1,200 a month in unemployment benefits, less than half the $3,000 a month he brought home from his job. Now he is often behind paying about $1,500 in rent, a car payment and other expenses. “I’m stealing from Peter to pay Paul,” he said, adding: “There’s the cable, the phone bill. I owe the bank overdraft fees and the insurance is lapsing a little bit. I can’t take my kids shopping for school clothes because I don’t have enough to do that.”
The checks may be meager, but Boyd does not know what he would do without them. “I depend on this money,” he said. “I’m wondering every other week if it is going to keep coming in or not. It’s stressful, and especially when you’re trying to look for a job, too.”