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Another op-ed that won't feed anyone's family
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Another op-ed that won't feed anyone's family

More ideological arguments from Az conservatives, but no solutions for long-term unemployed

When the recent special session of the Arizona Legislature on an unemployment extension “blew up” and ended without a bill being voted on, much less passed, a lot of us waited to hear a decent reason.

We are now on reason number three.

The reason given by many Republican legislators during the session was that an unemployment extension “disincentivizes work.”

This is as if to say trying to feed one’s family on a few hundred bucks a month and spending your days getting rejected by possible employers is the preferred option to work for 15,000 Arizonans (45,000 by the end of the year). It is not an argument made by people who have ever actually had to live off unemployment benefits. It is an insult thrown at their unemployed constituents disguised as policy-speak, just a fancy way of saying folks are too lazy to find work.

If our legislators would look around, they’d see that the biggest disincentive to finding work in this economy is not long term unemployment benefits, it is the lack of employers hiring.

By the way, non-Maricopa lawmakers were paid $60 per diem for the non-productive special session. Maricopa legislators got $35 daily. All were paid for the weekend, even.

Either way, that's more than the maximum $34.28 per day that one gets on unemployment benefits. Perhaps this “disincentive” led them not to pass a bill.

After the session, we were treated to the next argument: that paying unemployment benefits will lead to higher taxes, explode the deficit and destroy any chance of a recovery. They said “this is not free money,” as if anyone thought it was. People may be surprised by this. It is an "insurance" program after all, didn't we already pay for it? Well, yes, but we ran out of money. One reason? Back in 2008, the legislature decided to cut the amount of money employers were putting into the system. The current mess is, in part, because of the short sightedness of some of the very legislators now saying we don't have enough money.

They have stopped trying to justify their inaction and are going after the system itself now. An op-ed being circulated by the Goldwater Institute suggests if the state just had more control over the money, think what we can do with it.

In the op-ed, Stephen Slivinski suggests that the unemployment insurance system is antiquated. He suggests that the state could encourage things like paying into a private account that could get accessed if someone becomes unemployed. It sounds suspiciously like the discredited health savings account idea of a few years ago.

Those of us who have been watching the Legislature the past couple of years wonder if this money would go to yet another ill-thought out tax-credit scheme.

It isn’t so much the details of what might happen, it is a broader question: what makes him think that Arizona lawmakers have shown that they are willing or able to come up with a better way to serve Arizonans that lose their jobs? Their rhetoric and actions in the special session indicate at best a lack of any sort of grasp of the seriousness of the problem, and at worst a stunning absence of compassion for people suffering in this economy.

Like much of what comes before the Legislature these days, Slivinski’s suggestions have more to do with buzzwords and federal government bashing than the day to day lives of struggling Arizonans.

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