Turning the Safety Net Into A Hammock

| May 11, 2010 | 1 Reply

Once of the reasons that conservatives distrust government incentives is because of the law of unintended consequences. What is desirable in moderation can often, in excess, lead to exactly the opposite result from  what we intend to do. So we think long and hard and, when we do act, we do so slowly and incrementally. We take time to see if our policies may require an adjustment because adjustments are easier when the amount of government involved is small.

Conservative caution makes it easy for the left to call us cruel and heartless because we do not leap in like bureaucratic superheroes to save the despondent from their low condition. In their eyes, though, unintended consequences simply do not exist. Any failure of their transformational policies can be laid at the feet of too much caution, not enough spending, or an American public ignorant of just how wonderful their policies are.

Witness the growing failure of the Democrats’ extension of unemployment benefits. Earlier this year, the Democratic majority violated their own Paygo law to extend those benefits in some cases to 99 weeks — almost two full years. They reasoned that because the recession was so severe, they needed to deepen the “safety net”. Well, it turns out that for sufficient values of “deep” a safety net can look an awful lot like a hammock.

In a state with the nation’s highest jobless rate, landscaping companies are finding some job applicants are rejecting work offers so they can continue collecting unemployment benefits.

It is unclear whether this trend is affecting other seasonal industries. But the fact that some seasonal landscaping workers choose to stay home and collect a check from the state, rather than work outside for a full week and spend money for gas, taxes and other expenses, raises questions about whether extended unemployment benefits give the jobless an incentive to avoid work.

The Heritage Foundation notes that the the average landscaping job in Michigan, after taxes, would only net a worker $95 more dollars a week than an unemployment check. For a lot of workers — about dozen applicants in the case of one company — the extra money isn’t worth the effort. I, for one, don’t blame them all that much. If I could make a hundred dollars less a week just sitting home and doing whatever the heck I wanted, I’d probably take that deal, too. I’m sure it would give me a lot more time to work on my podcasts and write more. Heck, I bet I could make a bit of money under the table that the Feds would never know about, too. It would prick my conscience a bit

Now, conservatives tried to tell the country that there is a perverse incentive involved when you pay people not to work. We fought the extension of the unemployment benefits not only because it violated the Democrats’ ballyhooed PayGo law but also because it made unemployment far too comfortable. Michelle Malkin has been preaching that sermon for a while, but the left wouldn’t listen. So now we have a situation where the Federal government is actively fighting against the job market and an economic recovery. Worse, it’s using millions of our dollars to work against our interests.

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Category: The Economy and Your Money

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