The Problem With Extending Unemployment Insurance Ad Nauseum

Jim Bunning and Tom Coburn have, unsuccessfully, tried to force the Democrats in Congress to pay for extensions of unemployment benefits. This has ultimately failed each time. That’s not because it’s a bad idea;:  it’s because it’s an easily demagogued position. “You don’t want to extend unemployment benefits? That means you have no compassion for people who are out of work. What a jerk you are!”

But, what few people seem to stop to consider is that if you pay people not to work, which is what unemployment insurance is when you get right down to it, many people are going to deliberately avoid getting a job. If they have 26 weeks of unemployment insurance, many people will wait until week 26 to get a job. If they have 52 weeks on unemployment insurance, many people will wait until week 52 to get a job. Then, courtesy of James Taranto, comes this story:

When laid-off toy company executive Paul Nawrocki hit the streets of Manhattan wearing a sandwich board and handing out his resume, he became the face of the recession.At the end of 2008, with the giants of Wall Street collapsing and bank accounts dwindling, this lone, mustachioed job hunter with the sign proclaiming he was “almost homeless” seemed like a mirror of a slumping nation’s fears and troubles. . . .

Well, if Paul Nawrocki is a sign of the times, then times are looking up.
Because last month, after collecting 99 weeks of unemployment, Nawrocki finally found a job.

Ninety-nine weeks, eh? Want to see an amazing coincidence? This is from the Web site of the New York State Department of Labor:

New York State now provides 73 additional weeks of unemployment benefits, as well as the usual 26 weeks of regular benefits.

Get a calculator, and punch in “73+26=.” Spooky, isn’t it?

Does it really make sense for us to borrow money from the Chinese to incentivize American workers not to work for 99 weeks at a stretch? I say “no,” it doesn’t. Unemployment insurance shouldn’t be extended beyond the 26 week mark.

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