Thursday, December 15, 2011

Take a Drug Test & Work for Free!

Eight payless weeks of work if you piss in a cup? Is that what capitalism and American exceptionalism has come to? Is this the "new and improved" American Dream? And why have the Republicans always blamed the jobless for being jobless, even after the 2008 economic collapse?

Besides drug-testing and reducing benefits, another GOP requirement more millions of those still eligible for unemployment benefits would be to require them to be enrolled in a GED or training program.

Their plan also assumes that people who are using food stamps for liquor, gambling and strip clubs, and therefore closes the "strip club loophole" that supposedly lets welfare recipients use their electronic benefits cards in such establishments (anything to demean and marginalize the jobless).

But extending unemployment benefits for the long-term jobless is not a major cause of the high U.S. unemployment rate, according to a new study that comes as lawmakers debate whether to keep extended benefits beyond their slated January expiration (and reducing the maximum weeks by up to 40, from 99 to 59).

Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) said during a Thursday speech on the House floor. "We've got to get this country back to work and get those people out of the slacker rolls and onto the employed rolls."

Conservative economists have said extended benefits could have increased the unemployment rate by as much as 2.7 percentage points, but Jesse Rothstein of the University of California - Berkeley found otherwise. According to his analysis (PDF), extended benefits "raised the unemployment rate by only about 0.2–0.6 percentage points, much less than is implied by previous analyses."

And Rothstein says more than half of that increase could be caused by benefits recipients searching for jobs -- thereby remaining part of the labor force -- instead of just giving up on their search. (Benefits recipients must look for work to qualify...but after their UI benefits expire, how would anyone know if they're still looking for work?)

Part of the recent decline in the unemployment rate was indeed caused by more than 300,000 people dropping out of the workforce in November, but not because they had unemployment insurance. Federal law requires workers receiving benefits to continue looking for work and therefore remain part of the workforce. A recent study found that the 99 weeks of benefits slightly increased the jobless rate because it kept folks looking.

President Obama had earlier announced a plan to put the long-term jobless back to work by encouraging states to adopt "Bridge to Work" programs that would let businesses try out workers without having to pay them.

The scheme, which would only be open to workers receiving federal unemployment benefits, would be modeled mainly on a Georgia program designed to reduce hiring costs and make it easier for the jobless to get back to work. The program, called Georgia Works, is voluntary for workers and employers and allows businesses to train workers for eight weeks with no obligation to pay or hire.

John Boehner and Eric Cantor like the plan: "As you may recall, we suggested adoption of a Georgia Works type program during our discussion of efforts to help the economy back in December of 2009. We continue to stand ready to work with you to implement common-sense reforms in this area."

Though Newt Gingrich's home-state officials have said most workers who go through on-the-job training via Georgia Works later wind up with jobs, there is almost no data backing the claim. Labor advocates worry the program exploits workers by giving free labor to businesses.

Newt Gingrich: “Go get a job after you take a bath.”

Labor advocates worry that even though the program is voluntary, attaching it to the unemployment insurance system could eventually lead to a worst-case scenario in which jobless workers are forced to work for free as a condition of receiving unemployment benefits.

The National Employment Law Project has interviewed workers who've participated in the program and found that their training was more like work. "People really aren't training for new skills," she said. "They are doing things they already know how to do."

The Congressional Budget Office announced that it expects the U.S. unemployment rate will remain above 8 percent through 2014.

A Republican congressman from Georgia has also proposed drug testing people who apply for unemployment insurance. The bill by Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) would require unemployment claimants to pass a drug test if they are identified in an initial screening as having a high probability of drug use. (He says local businesses complain of drug use among the jobless.)

Earlier this year, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) used an identical anecdote to promote drug testing the jobless. When HuffPost checked the claim, however, it turned out to be completely false -- the employer said it tested only new hires, not applicants. And among new hires, less than 1 percent flunked a drug test. Haley later admitted her claim was bogus, but did not relent in her support for drug testing the unemployed.

The National Employment Law Project described the drug testing element in the current GOP proposal the "most disturbing" part of the GOP's unemployment reforms. "Devising new ways to insult the unemployed only distracts from the current debate over how to best restore the nation’s economy to strong footing and the discussion over how to best support the unemployed and get them back to work," NELP said in a report (PDF).

Lower-Basch, a senior analyst with the Center for Law and Social Policy, says "Drug testing unemployment insurance recipients is part of a strategy of blaming the jobless for their predicament, rather than economic conditions. It's an insult to unemployed workers -- and a massive waste of taxpayer money -- to test millions of people for drug use with no reason other than stereotype to believe they are using drugs."

This blogger suggests that we also drug test members of congress and CEOs who get government contracts...they get taxpayer money too.

Jesse Rothstein has studied unemployment insurance, says there's little evidence that lack of education or drug addiction is the main problem for most unemployed people. "Most of the problem right now is that there aren't enough jobs," he says.

Former White House adviser Jared Bernstein considers unemployment benefits to be one of the most efficient forms of economic stimulus in existence. Mark Zandi, an economic adviser for Sen. John McCain's (R-Ariz.) 2008 presidential campaign, has estimated that each dollar spent on extending unemployment benefits generates $1.61 in economic growth. Meanwhile, according to an analysis from the National Employment Law Project (NELP), the Republicans' bill would result in $22 billion in lost economic growth and cost at least 140,000 jobs next year.

Bishop Stephen E. Blaire sent a letter to members of the House of Representatives urging them to focus on the economic security of workers at year's end. "When the economy fails to generate sufficient jobs, there is a moral obligation to help protect the life and dignity of unemployed workers and their families."

Three months ago the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 3,066,671 were receiving federal extended unemployment benefits (EUC) --- two months later it's reported as 3,048,926, because every month people are exhausting their UI benefits every month, and incrementally no longer being counted because they can't file a claim to show they are still looking for work, even though they are no longer receiving benefits.

This has been happening all along, going back to 2009 when I first began keeping track.

Over two years ago in October 2009 (at the supposed "peak" of unemployment) the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the national unemployment rate was at 10.2% with 15.7 million Americans out of work. So we can safely assume that, even if every single person received the maximum of 99 weeks in unemployment benefits, they would have all expired two months ago - - and only 3 million jobs have been created in the last 26 months.

About 8.4 million Americans exhausted all benefits but are no longer counted, and 27 million have no work at all (over double of the Bureau of Labor Statistics' reported 13.3 million), with a REAL unemployment rate of about 17%.

And a new census record shows that 1 in 2 people in America are now poor or low income. The GOP has always blamed the poor, rather than the big banks or big corporations - - but do they really expect us to believe that the poor and unemployed created this failed economy?

In truth, TANF, food stamps, or unemployment benefits are not the cause of high unemployment, and neither are high taxes or regulation on big businesses ("job creators") to blame either. It's just the exact opposite. It's too low taxes and it's also cheap labor overseas. It's not the fault of the poor and unemployed, it's the fault of the GOP, the big banks, and big corporations.

Herman Cain: "Don't blame Wall Street, don't blame the big banks. If you don't have a job and you are not rich, blame yourself!"

Meanwhile a $662 billion defense bill is expected to pass the Senate and head to Obama’s desk this week.

UPDATE: Republicans want to slash the duration of federal unemployment insurance by more than half, with some members arguing that the extended compensation in place since 2008 discourages the jobless from seeking out new work.

Today congressional Democrats countered with a report that finds workers who are eligible for benefits search for work more vigorously than workers who are not eligible. 

"Since Congress enacted federal unemployment benefits, time spent looking for a job has tripled among the long-term unemployed who are out of work as a result of job loss," the report says. (PDF)

Citing data from the Labor Department's American Time Use Survey, Democrats on the Joint Economic Committee estimate that from 2008 to 2010, the amount of time long-term jobless eligible for benefits spend looking for work increased 203 percent compared with previous years.

For workers who are likely ineligible for benefits because their unemployment was not caused by job loss, the amount of time spent search for work increased 120 percent.

Too low taxes:

Cheap labor overseas:

1 comment:

  1. UPDATE: January 2012: New bill for drug testing in South Carolina

    Associated Press: "A Senate panel advanced bills Tuesday that would require people laid off in South Carolina to pass a drug test to receive unemployment benefits, then volunteer 16 hours weekly with a charity or public agency to keep receiving a check.

    Though the panel heard testimony that both proposals would likely conflict with federal law, its chairman, Sen. Kevin Bryant, said afterward that doesn't matter.

    "It's time to start pushing back," said Bryant, R-Anderson. "I can't base how I vote on a bill on what some activist or liberal judge is going to do."

    Some liberal judge is going to stop this sucker with an injunction...because of the Constitution.