Anger deepens at unemployment impasse


Whenever we publish an article on unemployment benefits from our news feed, it releases a gusher of resentment and anger.

Assistant Editor Susan Rupe commented on this in her first blog post, but it still is astounding how visceral the reaction is. The articles tend to be about the latest collapse in attempts to extend long-term unemployment. Go to any of these articles and you will find an extraordinarily long tail of comments at the end. Some are touching and frightening in their desperation.  Even this press release got 64 comments as of this writing.

The argument against extending long-term unemployment has been that there is no way to pay for it and that more benefits would actually lead to more unemployment. This has been mostly a Republican response, which has been criticized as heartless, as echoed by many of the comments on our site.

Certainly in theory, the reasoning makes sense. What do you do, pay permanent unemployment? But digging a little deeper shows that this simple answer is not necessarily the right answer. Half the people who have been on unemployment benefits for more than a year are over 55.

Here is one of the issues with the argument that the number of employed increased as long-term unemployment benefits were cut off. The increase has been in low-wage jobs. And it’s older people filling out those ranks.

Next time you go to Wal-Mart or your neighborhood grocery, take a good look around. Look at who is stocking the shelves, working the register and bagging your groceries. You will see a lot of older folks. And you can also bet they didn’t expect to be cleaning up the mess in Aisle 6 in their 60s.

They may no longer be unemployed but is this what “retirement” is now?

Many newspapers and other news organizations have told these scary stories. Those over 55 have a 47 percent chance of getting another job. A decade or so ago, many could depend on a pension. Now, there’s a pension crisis where fewer and fewer people will get one.

Yes, there has to be a better answer to paying unemployment forever. But we can’t just avert our eyes from this deepening crisis and hope it dies somewhere out of sight. This, coupled with the looming long-term-crisis, is our future.

These desperate people are the canaries in the coal mine.




Steven A. Morelli is editor-in-chief for InsuranceNewsNet. He has more than 25 years of experience as a reporter and editor for newspapers, magazines and insurance periodicals. Connect with Steve →

  • Sandy

    Like over half the unemployed, I am 53 years old. Laid off June 2013, and still no job. We are struggling to pay the mortgages on homes we almost have paid for, in hopes not to lose them. We have depleted our retirement funds, money that was supposed to be there in our old age. Now, we will have to continue to work, in hopes of getting some of that back. That is if, we can even get a job. Refusing to allow a vote to extend benefits is unacceptable. We are hard working people, who have paid into the system for many, many years, and just want a chance to keep our homes and put food on the table.

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