Those no-good, lazy, unemployed freeloaders!

Or surely so it seems to the NC Republican legislators.  Of all the states with all the crazy conservatives, North Carolina is the very first to kick its citizens off of long-term federal unemployment benefits:

RALEIGH, N.C. — With changes to its unemployment law taking effect this weekend, North Carolina not only is cutting benefits for those who file new claims, it will become the first state disqualified from a federal compensation program for the long-term jobless.

State officials adopted the package of benefit cuts and increased taxes for businesses in February, a plan designed to accelerate repayment of a $2.5 billion federal debt. Like many states, North Carolina had racked up the debt by borrowing from Washington after its unemployment fund was drained by jobless benefits during the Great Recession.

The changes go into effect Sunday for North Carolina, which has the country’s fifth-worst jobless rate. The cuts on those who make unemployment claims on or after that day will disqualify the state from receiving federally funded Emergency Unemployment Compensation. That money kicks in after the state’s period of unemployment compensation — now shortened from up to six months to no more than five — runs out. The EUC program is available to long-term jobless in all states. But keeping the money flowing includes a requirement that states can’t cut average weekly benefits.

Because North Carolina leaders cut average weekly benefits for new claims, about 170,000 workers whose state benefits expire this year will lose more than $700 million in EUC payments, the U.S. Labor Department said.

And, why it is so important to kick these freeloaders to the curb?  Why, obviously, to jump-start the state’s economy:

Delaying would burden businesses and potentially increase the debt, said Rep. Julia Howard, R-Davie. The cuts also will push people to find work faster, then move to a better job as the economy improves, she said.

Riiiiight.  Because all these people are living off a small portion of their potential earnings just because they’re not looking hard enough.  Unemployment insurance is just a “hammock” for the poor, as Paul Ryan would put it.  I’m sure the fact that there are three job seekers for every new job has nothing to do with the large number of long-term unemployed.  It’s just lazy freeloaders.

So, what do economists have to say about this?

And economist Larry Katz, whose 1980s research on the subject is frequentlycited by the right, says his previous findings about unemployment insurance extending the duration of unemployment don’t apply in the Great Recession. “I strongly favor extensions of UI benefits when the labor market is weak,” Katz told PolitiFact in 2009. Booting job-seekers from the support system does nothing to change the ugly reality that there are still three unemployed people for every job opening. That ratio of job hunters to available jobs is down from nearly 7:1 in mid-2009.

There’s being mean and  there’s bad policy– Republicans have hit the double with this one.

(Also, a nice N&O Op-Ed on this, too).


About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

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