On Extending Unemployment Benefits

Unanswered questions...

Millions of people became involuntarily unemployed in 2007-2008, early in the economic crisis, and have long ago exhausted unemployment benefits and any extension they may have received at that time. They have dropped off the unemployment rolls and are no longer statistically counted as unemployed. Additionally many people have never qualified for unemployment benefits due to the professions they were in, for example real estate agents and mortgage brokers, also hard hit by unemployment.

An extension of people currently on benefits seems to beg the questions...what about those that have already dropped off? Also, since we now know unemployment is a long term, vexing problem, do we continue to extend indefinitely those on unemployment now and leave those already dropped off the rolls in the lurch? When do we cut off benefits? What about the massive federal deficit? Do we really want to create a permanent special underclass of people on unemployment, which in turn becomes basically welfare? These are hard questions that must be asked.

Video is from MSNBC's Hardball:

Jeffrey A. Miron is a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute and the Director of Undergraduate Studies in the Department of Economics at Harvard University.

Christian Weller is a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress and a Public Policy professor at the University of Massachusetts.


  1. First, I always think it's interesting when a news channel "attacks" a topic by picking two or more people who probably have NO true idea of the scope of things. To pick two Ivy League (probably tenured though I don't know) idea people to discuss the unemployment situation is like asking me to discuss the French Foreign Legion...actually it's worse because in that situation I'd admit I knew nothing and shut the hell up.

    I come at this as a mid-40's American male who has paid three decades's worth of unemplyment insurance into the system and has never yet received a penny of it back. I also lost a house because I wasn't eligible for unemployment (self-employed and my company went under without benefits). I have been in very unpleasant times monetarily. I may be in them again soon, as I can't imagine what besides tax subsidies and general finagling is keeping the doors of the company I work for now, open.

    I listened with interest to the Pennsylvania governor mention construction jobs...I know a lot of people who work these jobs specifically to BE unemployed for several months a year. Up here it happens all the time; put roofs on for six months then go to the government 'til spring. I resent the hell out of that. I also think it adds an element of truth to the governor's statements, though I wish that if he were on the same line of thought I'm on he'd have had the balls to point out the facts (and they are facts).

    Beyond that I think it's awfully vague and I don't trust the government to sort it out in any reasonable way. But I can say that about anything.

    I do know that when I was unemployed, if I had been receiving a large portion of my previous pay to do nothing, I'd have been very tempted to let it roll for at least a little while. As it was I was out of work for a year; amazing how big nickels seem then.

    I'm not sure any of this tells you anything but I'm as always glad you made me think about it, sir.

  2. Shoulda said the candidate for Gov. of PA...sorry to get it wrong.

  3. No offense to you "Back Easters" but it has always bugged me (and a lot of westerners) that academics and think tank "fellows" from the east coast corridor are always trotted out as the experts. I mean really, what do they know about anything in real life where your hands get dirty? There are a few exceptions, Thomas Sowell for example, generally it's too clubby for me.

    The short time I was once on unemployment, a long time ago, I couldn't wait to get off and the economy was pretty horrible back then too. I took a job I didn't like and didn't pay much, to get off of it. It was the idea of the government being involved in my life in the worst possible way...my income and therefore independence and self-sufficiency.

    I do realize that this is a very different time but ultimately, who gets extended unemployment (indeed who gets it at all now) has become a political lobbying football. Somehow I think there has to be a better way after regular short term unemployment runs out but no one "back east" listens to me!