- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 26, 2012

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

When it comes to job creation, President Obama has no clue. Under his leadership, the average amount of time spent in the unemployment lines more than doubled from four to nine months. Rather than push those down on their luck toward new opportunities, Mr. Obama wants to make sure they stay on the government dole for 99 weeks.

The House of Representatives offered reforms on the unemployment benefit-extension package adopted in December, but it was blocked by the Democratic Senate. It’s now up to a conference committee to do something more than just pay people not to work for an additional 10 months, extend the payroll tax cut and find billions to pay for both.

Rep. Dave Camp, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, has been pushing to fix the current system. While it’s technically a requirement that recipients look for work while collecting benefits, it doesn’t always happen. The Michigan Republican wants states to strengthen the ways they verify that a recipient is actively seeking work, whether by posting a resume online or other quantifiable methods.

Mr. Camp thinks recipients of jobless benefits who have not finished high school should at least enroll in a GED program. After a few weeks out of a job, the average person only spends about 40 minutes a day looking for work. There’s plenty of time left to spend four hours a day getting a high-school diploma, if not an associate’s degree.

“These bipartisan reforms provide those who need it with continued assistance during hard times while helping more Americans get back to work - which is the real goal of this program in the first place,” Mr. Camp’s spokesman explained.

Mr. Obama started adding benefit extensions in his failed 2009 stimulus bill, but the money gushing out of Washington failed to get people back to work. The GOP fears unemployment could become another budget-busting entitlement program and seeks to immediately cut out 20 weeks of added benefits, slimming the total number down to 59 weeks by summer.

The House also wants to give states more flexibility with federal funds to find new, improved re-employment programs. “The entire debate in Congress has been over how many weeks of benefits we can provide while leaving the system intact,” said James Sherk, senior policy analyst in labor economics at the Heritage Foundation. “The waiver program is the most important reform because it would allow you to change the system. A dynamic governor could create a better system that could be a model for the national unemployment system.”

Unemployment insurance is supposed to be insurance you paid for in the event of losing your job at no fault of your own. Over the past three years, it has turned into a benefits program that a minority of people believe is a deserved check in the mail for doing nothing. Congressional Republicans should not compromise with Democrats and need to take a stand for common-sense reform.

Emily Miller is a senior editor for the Opinion pages at The Washington Times.

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