A self-employed trader and fellow at the Heartland Institute, Ross Kaminsky has penned just about the bluntest opinion piece on unemployment benefits I’ve ever read.
Kaminsky has spotted an interesting locution used by those who would like to extend benefits until shortly before the final trumpet is sounded: “through no fault of their own.”
A few examples:
In Tuesday's House of Representatives debate, Rep. Chris van Hollen (D-MD) said that Congress had a responsibility to extend unemployment benefits to those who are "unemployed through no fault of their own."
Minority leader Nancy Pelosi used the same rhetoric in a floor speech a week ago, saying that the Senate's two-month payroll tax and unemployment benefits band-aid "would secure a critical lifeline for those who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own."
The Democratic Party's website crows, "Democrats have provided relief for hardworking Americans who lost their jobs through no fault of their own."
Should it matter whether the unemployed are at fault when government policies are developed? (I told you it was a blunt piece.) Kaminsky argues that the left employs the "through no fault of their own" rhetoric to induce guilt. It is also aimed at promoting the notion that benefits are a form of justice. (I told you…)
Kaminsky refers to the great economist Frédéric Bastiat, who wrote that man is naturally inclined to avoid pain. Since, in Bastiat’s view, work is a kind of pain, people will avoid it if there is an easier way. Collecting unemployment benefits might qualify as an easier way.
Thus people who become jobless “through no fault of their own” may opt to remain jobless very much through their own fault.
Of all the applications that we have received this year, when asked why they were seeking a job with us, one out of three answered: my unemployment is running out and I have to go back to work.
Earlier this year after I hired two new full-time employees, went through our company’s orientation process, fitted them with our work clothing and booked them to start within a week, they both quit.
One called ahead of the start date to apologize but wanted to inform us he would not be coming in because the government had just extended unemployment benefits again.
Diana Furchtgott-Roth, former chief economist at the U.S. Department of Labor, and a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, believes that the connection between receiving benefits and remaining unemployed is so strong that, if the GOP reduces the duration of benefits, they will bring down the unemployment rate, handing President Obama a re-election tool.
Although the left promotes the guiltlessness of the unemployed as a way to suggest that benefits are just, Bastiat would have regarded taking money from the taxpayer to supply unemployment benefits as plundering. Thus Kaminsky argues that, “Democrat compassion and legal plunder are synonymous.”
And, Kaminsky asks, where does it stop?
[H]ow does one draw a line between an unemployed person who lost his job "through no fault of his own" or someone who was simply not a very good employee? Do you really want bureaucrats making that decision one day? And what about the employer whose business was shrinking and thus he had to lay off employees? How about paying them for profits that fell "through no fault of their own"?
It may be that many of us aren't willing to go as far as Kaminsky.
But this is a conversation society needs to have.