Congress is currently debating extending long-term unemployment benefits for another three months. Most mainstream media sources would have you believe that members of Congress who support the extension are compassionate souls, while the ones opposed don’t care about unemployed people. This shortsighted narrative ignores the facts and puts politics over real solutions to the jobs situation in the United States.
At the height of the financial crisis in 2008, Congress set up a temporary federal unemployment compensation program. Most state unemployment benefits last about 28 weeks. The intention of the federal program was to take over after state benefits ran out. The program has been running for five years, and some people have been able to collect unemployment benefits for up to 99 weeks.
Late economist Milton Friedman said it best, “Nothing is so permanent as a temporary government program.”
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is determined to renew the program, which expired on December 28, 2013. Meanwhile, other members of Congress are calling for the $6.4 billion benefits extension to be offset by spending cuts elsewhere in the federal budget. This is a more fiscally responsible option that will ensure the cost of extending the program will not add to the federal deficit.
True to form, Senator Reid has refused to compromise.
Simply extending federal unemployment benefits will not address the root problem of long-term unemployment. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, over 4 million Americans have been jobless for over 27 weeks or more. Supporters of extending the benefits argue it’s necessary to assist people who can’t find a job after many months. But more unemployed benefits is just putting a Band-Aid on a huge problem that needs to be immediately addressed.
The fact that Congress is discussing prolonging long-term unemployment benefits signals that the economy is still stalled five years after the Great Recession. Chronically unemployed people who are at risk of losing their unemployment benefits are a symptom of that problem.
Unemployment benefits are not a form of economic stimulus. Throwing more money at the problem will not fix the job situation. It will do nothing to encourage entrepreneurs to create more jobs or help people find jobs to feed their families.
Julie Borowski is a Policy Analyst at FreedomWorks, an organization dedicated to lower taxes, less government, and more freedom. Her writings on economic policy have appeared in numerous newspapers and online outlets. She is on the Board of Advisors for the Coalition to Reduce Spending and she launched an independent YouTube channel called TokenLibertarianGirl in June 2011.
She was previously selected to be a Charles G. Koch Summer Fellow with the Institute for Humane Studies where she worked at the Center for Competitive Politics. Most recently, she was a government affairs associate at Americans for Tax Reform.
Julie has volunteered for political candidates in Kentucky and in her home state of Maryland. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Frostburg State University in May 2010 where she studied political science, economics and international studies. She is now located in Washington, D.C.