EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Opinion

January 19, 2014

Column: Thoughts on the persistence of unemployment benefits

(Continued)

Beyond that, it will always be possible to find stories -- millions of them -- about people who are out of work and will be on the streets without their unemployment check.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the official unemployment rate last month was 6.7 percent, which meant 10.3 million people out of work. Even if that drops to 5 percent -- what economists consider a “full-employment” economy -- there will be 7.2 million stories exactly like those today, which every TV station will run in an endless loop until Congress extends benefits yet again.

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The president and his followers keep telling us that unemployment benefits help the economy -- that every dollar of benefits produces $1.80 of economic activity. If that is true, why don’t we all quit working, start collecting and watch the economy roar back to life?

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Have we really been in an economic recovery for the past five years -- one that President Obama frequently tells us is “miraculous” and has occurred thanks to “the policies I’ve put in place”?

It seems like a fair question, because there is a major disconnect between claims of recovery and the claim that unemployment is still at an emergency level.

Would the media have let Bush get away with that?

A talk show on National Public Radio a few weeks ago had a discussion of unemployment benefits. An expert went on for several minutes about how President Obama’s leadership had spurred the economy into recovery, and that all the signs were not only pointing in the right direction but moving in the right direction.

Then, in the next breath, she went on about how it would be an economic disaster to return to non-emergency unemployment benefit levels -- which in most states are at least six months -- because “people are able and willing to work, and are looking for work, but the jobs just aren’t there.”

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