Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Whose welfare?

With a letter last week, Idaho Department of Labor Director Roger Madsen backed moves by the state's congressional delegation to block further extensions of unemployment benefits to workers who can't find jobs.

He said people are being harmed by "endless extensions" and that some have been out of work so long that their skills are deteriorating. Ending benefits would "encourage" them to get a job.

But Madsen's most inflammatory and cruel statement was this: "Moreover, I believe unemployment insurance has become, in the eyes of many claimants and business owners, an "entitlement" or "welfare" program rather than one based on basic unemployment insurance principles that have served the program well with minimal controversy for decades."

Madsen, a well-educated man, failed to acknowledge the real recipients of the $450 million paid in extended jobless benefits this year. The unemployed aren't exactly sitting on fat piles of cash. The money they receive goes for rent, mortgage payments, food, clothing, utilities, education and medical care.

So, who are the true welfare recipients?

Madsen should more accurately have characterized banks and landlords who receive rent and mortgage payments as beneficiaries of this "welfare." Add to that the supermarkets, drugstores, medical clinics, utilities, retail stores and schools that receive payments for goods and services from the unemployed.

In the case of unemployment benefits, what goes around truly comes around. Unemployment benefits help keep Idaho's economy afloat. Madsen and the congressional delegation should be careful what they wish for. To the misfortune of us all, they may get it.

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