Edmonds Military Wire: Sound Off! Is extending unemployment benefits important?

By Michael Schindler

Congress is coming up against a hard, fixed deadline of Dec. 31 to make a decision on whether to extend the unemployment insurance benefit. If they don’t, some 5 million people will be without federal assistance in 2012. If they do, it will cost $44 billion to keep what is a lifeline to many in place.

When it comes to our veterans, we know that they traditionally experience higher unemployment compared to their civilian counterparts – just look at the 18- to 24-year-old veteran: That age group is roughly at a 20 percent plus unemployment rate, compared to the 9 percent civilian rate in the same age group.

Will a non-pass lead to higher veteran unemployment, homelessness and perhaps even suicides?
Or, will the decision to revert to the traditional 26 weeks of state assistance and 53 weeks of federal assistance encourage innovation and creativity among those who are unemployed? There is a Chinese proverb that goes something like, “when the backbone and the stomach meet, one will find work.” True?

Sound off – we want to know what you think!

Michael Schindler, Navy veteran, and president of Edmonds-based Operation Military Family, is a guest writer for several national publications, author of the book “Operation Military Family” and “The Military Wire” blog. He is also a popular keynote and workshop speaker who reaches thousands of service members and their families every year through workshops and seminars that include  “How to Battle-Ready Your Relationship” or “What Your Mother-in-Law Didn’t Tell You.”  He received the 2010 Outstanding Patriotic Service Award from the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs.

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9 Comments

  1. Somehow bailing out banks to the tune of billions yet withholding help for those living without basic necessities such as food and housing make no sense in a civilized supposedly Christian society.
    When did we become such a country when we let those few that control more than half of our GNP make the decision to withhold financial help to those who need it most-including the veterans whose lives are changed forever due to their service to country.

  2. Carol – I hear you – but at what point does a help-up become an issue of dependency and thwart initiative? If I recall my history, the average length on unemployment during the Great Depression was 24 weeks – we have passed that with this current recession. Perhaps if we tie re-education and training to the extension that would serve us all better?

  3. ” A July 2010 report by the Joint Economic Committee of Congress reviewed decades of economic studies to see if unemployment insurance benefits inhibited unemployed workers from vigorously looking for or accepting a new job. “Those fears,” the report concluded, “are unfounded.” A different study last year by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco reached the same conclusion.”

    http://articles.latimes.com/2011/dec/07/opinion/la-oe-dreier-jobless-20111207

  4. Here are those reports:

    Does Unemployment Insurance Inhibit Job Search?
    http://jec.senate.gov/public/?a=Files.Serve&File_id=713bc58c-6f31-4276-ab42-0042e58dc7c7

    Extended Unemployment and UI Benefits
    http://www.frbsf.org/publications/economics/letter/2010/el2010-12.html

  5. I hope I heard this wrong. 1 in 8 military veterans committ suicide and roughly 78,000 are homeless. I was very saddened and appalled to hear this. They deserve all the help we can give them when they return including mental, physical, re-education, training and support including monetary help. Our political leaders have demsonstrated continual mis-placed values. They all talk the talk but obviously there is a far worse problem than developing dependency that needs to be addressed so they get the help they need.

  6. A few empirical observations of my friends confirm’s the results of the studies cited above – NOBODY likes to take unemployment compensation, and they fight like hell to find work. It isn’t a handout, so much as a lifeline to an overboard shipmate.

    A few prescriptions from my armchair.
    – Pay people what their time is worth, and the work will find them. Washington state can’t find enough people to pick the state’s apple crop, and has resorted to using prison labor to help offset the labor shortage. These jobs do not pay a living wage, so people literally can’t afford to take the job! Are we willing to pay more for apples picked by better-paid pickers? Do we, as a people, have the intestinal fortitude to NOT pay the lowest price, but to shop with our conscience? We don’t, and must admit it.

    – Software companies can’t find enough qualified people to program, perform IT security tasks, and other such brainiac jobs, and they are the ones that are hiring. Why can’t people get themselves up to speed for these good-paying jobs, instead of importing workers? I’m not sure if it’s lack of ability, lack of self-confidence, lack of access to proper training, or simply not knowing that these opportunities exist. But it’s a fact – the jobs are there, and they go unfilled.

    So, there are jobs. We, as a nation, just haven’t figured out how to get people into them. In the meantime, we should extend unemployment insurance as both a fiscal stimulus, and as the right thing to do. And on the issue of veterans, they may be over-represented in the ranks of the unemployed, but let’s recall that all Americans are people, and unnecessary suffering of any of them is equally saddening.

    If we want to discuss addiction to subsidies and handouts, look away from unemployment compensation, and let’s cut something significant, like, say… .the home mortgage tax deduction, or treating capital gains as something other than income. Or defense spending.

    We simply are not willing to cut things that benefit us individually, despite our indignant scoffing at others who won’t cut things that benefit them.

  7. Todd:

    re: Software companies. It would be great to see more programs such as these developed. The company I am working for has been experimenting with a program called Year Up giving urban young adults a boost into the field. Many veterans have enough skills to fill some of the open roles. The difficult part is getting into the door ahead of the less expensive offshore folks with direct experience.

    The reality is that it is difficult and uncomfortable for companies and US workers to compete with the H1-B situation. Many of the imported labor that I have worked with over the years has been well educated, experienced, dedicated, and very willing to work for far less pay. Work life balance? Not so much of a priority for someone on an H1-B.

  8. Paul & Todd:

    Read “That Used to Be Us” by Friedman and Mandelbaum for some eye opening insights and suggestions on this (and other) areas where we need to get better!

  9. Paul – spot-on assessment of the challenge of the bottom line vs. hiring/training local. Thanks for your perspective on the ground on this.

    John – will check out that book when I get back home, for certain. Always looking for an excuse to darken the door at the Edmonds Bookshop.

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