Monday, April 18, 2011

Can We Please Stop Confusing Unemployment With Welfare?

I'm not going to get political here. Believe what you want about welfare, its role in society, etc. That's not what I want to talk about. These pages have, lately, been all about geeky stuff, and not at all about being out of work. Honestly, that's because the unemployment posts I've put together seemed... well, boring. A lot of them fell into the “weepy LiveJournal” kind of stuff I don't want to write, and no one wants to read.
Talking about video games, comics and tabletop RPGs is way more fun than whining.

That said, a way to write about something and make it somewhat interesting is to get good and riled about it, and I am. I have, in the last few weeks, read far too much about “people collecting unemployment on my tax dollar.” I've read blogs, forum posts, and tweets/status updates about it, and it pisses me off. Ignorance is something I have a short fuse for anyway, but when it is used to paint a group I fall into with a wide brush as lazy thieves, I approach meltdown. I'm going to say this once, using the smallest words I know to express it. IN THE US, A PRIVATE CITIZEN'S TAXES DON'T FUND UNEMPLOYMENT.

For clarification, I'm not talking about the “extended unemployment” offered by the US Federal Government, I am talking about the checks I am currently receiving, issued through the state. The way it works is that employers pay into an insurance fund for every employee they have, and if one of them becomes unemployed and qualifies for benefits, those benefits are paid from that fund. The fund keeps a surplus because not everyone qualifies for benefits, and quite a few people have another job (or something else) lined up when they leave a position, and the funds paid in for them are never used. No tax dollars. Don't believe me? Here. Or... Here. (First source is an article/overview, second is from an employer advocacy group, two sources as different as I could find.)

When I see someone yelling about how they are paying for me to sit on my ass, this is what I see and hear. DEY TUK OUR JERBS!

I've read articles recently (and am now wishing I'd bookmarked them so I could link) blasting the people who have chosen to not spend 8 hours per weekday looking for jobs that aren't there or worse, taking a job that will have a negative impact on their work and salary history in the future. There are people openly debating whether it is right for the unemployed to be happy in their situation. Why is this even a question? It isn't wrong to be happy, period.

There aren't so many people writing articles that display this level of arrogance and ignorance, forgetting that they or someone they care about are one corporate decision away from the same fate, but there are a LOT of commenters who feel this way. It makes me mad and a little physically ill to know that the expectation of quite a few of my fellow citizens for the pittance I receive that they did NOT pay for is: to be miserable daily, trudging along and willing to take the first foodservice or call center job that will take me.

Fair warning, strawman ahead.

I know there are a few people desperate enough to hold to this arrogant line of thinking that respond to the facts about how unemployment compensation is paid for that can take it a step or two further. Forgive me if I straw man a little here. The continued argument against unemployment says that if employers didn't have to pay into unemployment insurance, the extra funds could be passed on to employees. I understand this line of thinking, but respectfully disagree. The amount of compensation to employees has historically been determined by two factors. A federally mandated minimum wage, and what percentage above that minimum is the least a qualified applicant with specialized skills or training will accept to do a job that they are needed to perform.

I'm not sure where such anger and venom comes from. I suspect that there is a perception that there are a large number of people gaming the system and living like kings while sitting around doing nothing. In an extended time of high unemployment and strained financial conditions worldwide, this perception becomes less and less accurate as the weeks and months roll on. That is, if the perception was ever accurate. They took our jerbs, indeed. My apologies to non-US readers, back to geekery tomorrow.
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Grafted said...

THANK YOU, awesome post

The Angry Lurker said...

It was something I didn't know anyway, good to know as a non-US citizen.

Jay said...

you have a fine point here, thanks for the rant. ;)

Alpha said...

Never heard the 'straw man' term before.

Bard said...

Really good post, Doc.

A Beer for the Shower said...

I couldn't agree with you more.

I got laid off, out of nowhere, 6 months ago and didn't have much money saved up. If it wasn't for unemployment, I'd be in the streets right now. And yes, as you can see from my blog, I don't spend 8 hours every day searching for jobs. I have a life. I also refuse to work for McDonalds or some menial job after coming from a relatively high paying IT job.

Awesome post, sir.

Moobeat said...


=dgrphx= said...

unemployment sucks balls i owe them money so i dont qualify and i dont have a job so i cant pay them but i dont think ill ever pay if i did have money fuck them straight to hell

Chaffee Street Cafe` said...

I never understood the point about if one is forced, through no fault of their own, to take a job paying less, why it should have a negative effect on their resume. This is such a strange and sometimes stupid world.

Kelly said...

Damn... I've had the same thoughts on this Unemployment controversy but have never put them into words. You did a great job with this post on the subject, Joel.

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