First it was affirmation action, then welfare queens. Now the Republicans think they have a new issue, according to Mark Schmitt: unemployment insurance.
But now they seem to have found it, in the most unlikely of programs: Unemployment Insurance. The legislation to extend the payroll tax cuts that passed the Republican-controlled House on Wednesday brings the full arsenal of welfare reform gimmicks to the UI program: Time limits; drug tests; requirements to seek work or enter an education program.Well, I'd have to agree that drug tests and seeking work are gimmicks. But that's because liberals like Mark Schmitt will descend like a murder of crows on anyone that proposes a bigger reform and asks bigger questions.
Don't agree? Well, Schmitt himself pours scorn on Newt Gingrich for a "proposal to have schoolchildren work as janitors." Sorry, I don't bite. Why don't we have schoolchildren getting out to work instead of being confined for their entire childhood in those wonderful government child-custodial facilities without possibility of parole?
And why don't we take a bigger look at unemployment insurance? Why don't we privatize the whole thing: old-age pensions, unemployment insurance, workers' comp, and disability? All of these government programs, that want us to believe that government is giving us wonderful benefits, are merely running wage income through the government and then out again as benefits. Why don't we encourage workers to build their own savings, and supplement it with a bit of insurance when they are young?
I will tell you why, and it has nothing to do with the safety net. It is merely that people in politics want to buy votes. In the case of unemployment the government taxes employers and then turns around and pretends that the government is giving money to the helpless unemployed. Suppose we just gave that money directly to the workers in personal unemployment accounts, and let them borrow from the government during a recession when jobs are hard to find?
The good thing is that the temptation to freeload, however large or small, would be diminished when people are spending their own money on unemployment. And if an unemployed 40-year-old went out and found a job sooner, because he didn't want to touch his nest-egg, well, it's a free country.
That's the difference between conservatives and liberals. Liberals want a benefit society; conservatives want an ownership society.