Should Taxpayers Continue Pumping Millions Into Unemployment Benefits for the Rich?
According to statistics recently released by the Department of Labor, unemployment rates dropped by 0.4% to stand at 8.6% in November 2011. This means that around 13.3 million people in the U.S. are still unemployed. Some people however, have shown no interest in working but have been applying for jobs. Their intention is not to get jobs, but to maintain a certain number of job applications in order to enjoy certain benefits from the government. Congress therefore, walks a tightrope when making the decision to continue extending benefits to the unemployed, as there needs to be a balance between assisting people to make it through life and giving them incentives to achieve this.
The decision becomes even harder and divided when one considers the case of Arlene Ackerman, a former School District superintendent who was removed from her job by the mayor over complaints that she was not properly handling the district's school affairs. After settling to leave her job at a very high buy-out clause, Arlene applied for unemployment benefits and was eligible to pocket around $573 every week, as this is the maximum amount allowed in the State of Pennsylvania as unemployment benefits. These high benefits are fast becoming a burden to the State's taxpayers.
The outrage against Arlene was not justified because, as Arlene put it, she was not taking anything that she had not earned. The law also fully backs her up because according to it, benefits are not based on the economic position or power of a claimant. This, therefore, means that both the poor and wealthy individuals are entitled to claim unemployment benefits.
With the question of legality settled, the next question that arises is whether the whole process is fair. This is because, apart from Ackerman, there are many other millionaires on the list of unemployed who enjoy unemployment benefits. For example, in 2003, over 3,000 people with incomes of over $1 million received unemployment benefits. About 17 of these millionaires had reported incomes of over $10 million in a single fiscal year.
These are the kinds of issues likely to pop up for discussions when Congress meets for negotiations on the extensions of tax cuts on payrolls. Even though the Democrats are making efforts to prevent the ending of unemployment benefits, there is a lot of resistance to their plan from citizens, as most of the money is funded by taxpayers.