Voting to extend unemployment

Andy Matthews

Every week, NPRI President Andy Matthews writes a column for NPRI's week-in-review email. If you are not getting our emails, which contain our latest commentaries and news stories, you can sign up here to receive them.

Voting to extend unemployment

Earlier this week, Nevada’s U.S. senators succeeded in advancing a plan to hinder the nation’s economy.

The Senate voted 59-38 to reward not working by reviving long-term unemployment benefits. If the House follows suit, unemployed Americans will be able to reap combined federal and state jobless payments for 18 months.

Sen. Dean Heller co-authored the legislation, and Sen. Harry Reid vilified those who wouldn’t support it, saying “They don’t care.”

Unsurprisingly, Reid gets it wrong. Those who think extending unemployment benefits — retroactively, no less — is bad policy care deeply about the unemployed. We care about them enough to want to help them work again.

Time and time again, research has shown that increasing unemployment benefits increases unemployment; it does not reduce it or stimulate the economy. Proponents of long-term unemployment benefits argue that the subsidies allow people to hold out for better, higher-paying jobs, but the data shows that the key to economic growth is a populace that works.

Even President Obama’s former economic advisor, Larry Summers, admits that “unemployment insurance lengthens unemployment spells." The list of economists who recognize this goes on and on, and even includes Paul Krugman, at least when wearing his “economics textbook author” hat. Recent, real-world case studies also confirm this truth.

North Carolina reduced in-state unemployment benefits and shortened the length of time recipients could reap the benefits, and — this might shock Harry Reid — the state’s unemployment rate fell to a five-year low. Georgia and South Carolina also reduced unemployment benefits and saw their unemployment numbers decline.

Despite what the data has consistently shown, Sens. Reid and Heller are working to make a safety net into a comfortable hammock. And, when one considers all the welfare benefits the State of Nevada has to offer, that hammock entraps people instead of motivating them.

My heart goes out to anyone who has lost a job, particularly in this still-stagnant job market. But the solution to ending long-term unemployment isn’t to pay people to remain unemployed longer, but rather to get the government out of job creators’ way. Removing onerous regulations and debilitating business taxes would create an environment in which businesses can thrive and hire.

It’s foolish to throw money we don’t have at a problem, when doing so will only make it worse.

On a different note, I’d like to congratulate “fsdnevada” for picking Kentucky to be in the national championship game and for winning our NPRI Bracket Challenge. Fsdnevada, if you’re reading this, please send me your address. We tried to message you to get your address so we could send you the signed Jonah Goldberg book you’ve won, but your ESPN account no longer exists.

One last thing: I’m off to Mexico for a few days next week, to give a speech, meet with some business leaders, do a little sightseeing and lay the groundwork for the forthcoming launch of Transparent Mexico (OK, just kidding about that last one).

But in all seriousness, I’ll be staying in Ajijic, a town not far from the city of Guadalajara, so if any of you know the area well and have some favorite spots I ought to check out, I’d love to hear your suggestions.

As always, thanks for reading, and I’ll see you next time.

Andy Matthews
NPRI President

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