Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Welfare and Unemployment Benefits

I have been pondering this subject ever since the Arizona Daily Star placed a two column editorial on March 5, 2010 criticizing Senator Jon Kyl for remarks he made during the debate in the Senate over continuing unemployment benefits for the entire year of 2010. He was quoted as saying “it was a disincentive for people to seek work”.
As a reminder to my readers it had been previously been approved for the entire year of 2009. What this means to me is that persons previously in the work force could have a full two years of receiving a weekly check in Arizona of $265/ week. Their only requirement is to keep applying for employment similar to the job they had been doing before being laid off.
I very seldom find myself in agreement with our good Senator but in this case I am, at least partially. The reason for partially is that in the end he did vote to extend, I assume under extreme pressure such as he received from the news media.
I will now show how insensitive I am. I would have voted against it or at the very least modified the process.
I am now going to share comments made by Andy Rooney on 60 Minutes Sunday March 21, 2010. He was also upset. He talked about the need for work crews on construction projects or roads. The only job these out of work people deem suitable for their talents is to be the supervisor. They would never consider manual labor. It is beneath them, what with their educational levels and previous jobs. He added that we need plumbers, electricians and brick layers to rebuild our infrastructure that is crumbling all around us. I thought to myself well done. Millions of listeners heard him; some might even be elected officials.
Let me digress now and discuss welfare. Prior to August 22, 1996 many people had spent their entire lives living on their welfare checks. President Clinton signed the “Welfare Reform Act” on that date. He was working with a Republican Congress who insisted changes be made and they were. From that time forth there were stipulations that set limits on entitlements; required most to engage in job activities which included work experience, community service, job training or vocational education. In addition they must find work within two years or perform community service. It mandated a minimum of 30 hours per week and imposed a lifetime limit. Checking the Internet, even with these changes it is mind boggling the various and sundry rules that I am sure can be bent. Regardless, at least an attempt was made and it has been reasonably successful in getting people back to work.
Now let’s return to the subject of Unemployment Benefits. There has to be a way to get these people who are capable back into the work force. The minimum wage in Arizona at the present time is $7.25/hr. That times 40 hours equals $290/week. That would be $25 more than the unemployment check. Of course leaving home and traveling to the job site would be a cost that would deduct from wages earned. I would go so far as to allow deductions that would assure the minimum of $265 is maintained. Most unemployed would be expected to find work paying more than the minimum. My point is that not working for two years is just plain wrong. It is no wonder our nation is on the brink of insolvency. This give away to people in their wage earning years cannot be allowed to continue. It is at this point where I like to remind that FDR’s programs got men out of the house. He did not want them to get used to idleness so that when real jobs were available they would step right in. Why can’t our elected officials understand this fundamental truth? I would also ask the editor of the Star to reconsider and put forth a proposal of his or her own.

Jack B. Walters
3961 N. Hillwood Circle
Tucson, AZ 85750
(520) 722-2958
March 23, 2010

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