Do Benefits Keep People From Working?

This Good Question could cause debate and really, there’s not a whole lot I’m going to say about it personally because I’ve know people who’ve gotten laid off and really taken advantage of it and I’m not willing to take the risk and cause problems but what do you think?

Here is the story. I’m always fascinated how people look at this and how some jobs are just beneath them. If it means taking a handout from the government and receiving food stamps and going to food shelves, some people I know don’t seem to have a problem doing that. If they can’t make what they were when they were working, or what they make while unemployment, they’d rather sit home.

Here are a few statements from people in the story in case you don’t go read it.

“DB wrote that his unemployed wife got a retail job, “but when she realized she would have to work 15 to 25 hours per week to just equal her unemployment,” she took a pass..

Jennifer Westphal admitted, “I looked a lot less fervently because I had benefits.” She ultimately found a job, but wonders, “If you deduct what I would have got from unemployment and what I pay for child care, my net gain is about $5 an hour. Sometimes, I wonder why I didn’t just stay home on the government dole.”

What do you think this boils down to? Is it a work ethic thing? If our parents didn’t miss work or go unemployed, we’re not likely to either? I can’t ever remember either of my parents staying home from work. Paul and I never missed work either and now our 2 boys never stay home. Is it learned behavior?

Stating again from the story, “So, the question is about how much of cushion is just right to take care of people in a bad time. “How comfortable should we make this cushion? If we make it too comfortable, people won’t get up and get out of the cushion,” noted Reardon. If it’s not comfortable enough, it hurts the overall economy, he added.

What do you all think?

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6 Responses to Do Benefits Keep People From Working?

  1. SKL says:

    This is indeed a good question. I have a relative who has been on unemployment for as long as Obama has been president. She does some work here and there (which she does report) and she has a small business which might actually make money someday. Her benefits are relatively low because in our state, it depends on whether you have kids, and she doesn’t. Another factoid is that she lives in the boonies and she would have to drive pretty far, in winter half the year, to get to most jobs. So in her case, she really does have to think twice about taking a low-wage job, because the cost of gasoline and car maintenance adds up pretty fast. And there are truly few jobs nearby. She’s an engineer, but she’s not snooty about it. However, let’s imagine that there’s a minimum wage job cleaning cow poo from 8-5 M-F. If she took that job, wouldn’t that make it harder for her to eventually get a job more in line with her work? Wouldn’t it be more sensible to, for example, build her fledgling business or do volunteer to do engineering work for a local charity, while actively seeking long-term employment? Besides which, a minimum wage job would not cover her mortgage, health care, and other basic costs. For the record, she still is applying and interviewing, but she is a hard-to-place person for various reasons.

    On the other hand, would she be looking for a job more desperately if her other alternative was to go bankrupt and starve? Probably. Would it lead to a better long-term result? Maybe, maybe not.

    Of course, everyone’s story is different. It would be nice if we could tailor benefits to individual realities, but that will never happen. Surely there are people who let decent job opportunities pass them by because it’s easier to keep collecting a check. There are people who don’t have their own mortgage/rent or kids and really don’t need the level of benefits that others need. Yes, some people are lazy and irresponsible. Does this mean we need to treat everyone on unemployment the same way? Unfortunately, I think that’s the reality.

    So if my relative’s benefits end, her family will have to chip in until she pays off her mortgage and/or starts making money off her business. Hopefully she could get on Medicaid to cover some of the medical costs she has. And she would keep looking for an engineering (or related) job until she found one. I still don’t think she’d take a job 70 miles away unless it paid pretty well. It just wouldn’t make sense.

    I really hate to take a stand on this because I don’t think either answer is 100% right. But with government stuff, I’m not going to suggest complicating it with a bunch of “ifs, ands, or buts.” You know where that’s going to end up, just like all government programs: preferring minorities, druggies, etc., and basically compounding problems instead of resolving them.

  2. Phyllis says:

    I think this issue depends on a lot of variables as well as an individual’s upbringing. For myself, I fell and became partially disabled in 07 (much to my dismay) and I’m still using a cane due to mobility issues. I realize this is a different scenario, but it’s also similar in ways. I was awarded (yeah, that’s really the term officials use) disability social security benefits. The amount would enable me to live a little tight financially but not too difficult. However, I returned to work after 14 mo when I was able to stand comfortably. If I hadn’t, I would be covered by medicare for hosp, dr, etc., while also being able to work limited hours on what’s called a “Ticket to work” from social security. I’d be bringing home just a little less than I do working part-time 23 hrs @ wk. It would be doable. However, until that fall I always worked 2 jobs and working is important to my sense of self. I am a person who enjoys interaction with others and my job provides that, it also gives me a sense of purpose. It probably helps that I really detest the soaps and other entertainment that’s offered on daytime T.V. What do people do all day if they don’t work?

    My daughter was laid off 2 years in a row, raising 2 girls, and was collecting unemployment benefits during this time. This enabled her to pay her mortgage, some of her bills, and put food on the table. My mom and I were able to help with the finances when necessary. Life wasn’t easy, but again, it was doable. However, while she was off she was actively seeking employment. The amount of pay had to be dependent on the amount of travel involved going to and from work. Fortunately, she found employment that is close to home (10 min. away), so she was able sustain a cut in the rate of pay. Because of that lower pay rate the budget is tougher to live within. Like me, she had always worked, so she didn’t lose any time in seeking employment. However, with the economy the way it is, it took a while to find something suitable.

    Is this something we learn from our family? Probably. My parents rarely missed a day of work while we were growing up, and my daughter grew up seeing me go to work even on days that I didn’t feel well. I think if the family work ethic is lacking, people are less likely to seek employment.

    I knew a woman who had small 3 children, raising them on the food stamps, medicaid, money toward her rent and whatever other subsidies she could get. She came from a family that has been playing the government system for generations. She was unmarried and yet continued to have childen every 2 yrs. At last count she had 4 children all under the age of 7. Why? Because for each child she would receive an increase in her benefits. She would apply for work, be interviewed, ready to start working, but when the time came to begin, she never worked. Why? Because why should she when she was able to stay home and be be paid for it? Like I said, she was raised in a family that had played the system for years and that was what she had learned growing up. These are the benefits that should be more closely monitored!

    In my opinoun, if a person is actively seeking employment, yet unable to find a suitable position the unemployment benefits should be extended to them as long as possible. BUT, if they’re just sitting around and not looking for a job, why should they be allowed to collect? Does that come across as harsh? If so, I apologize.

  3. Nikki says:

    I think it’s mostly learned behavior. Jason had the best teacher when it came to work ethics. His dad. I’m thankful for that. He hasn’t taken a day off, un-payed in YEARS!!!

    The way I feel about unemployment is if you are actively looking for work, and can’t find any, I am all for having that help for those people. I do not think people should sit on their butts and collect it though. Their are people out there that are willing to do that. I know a few. I know one person, who will flat out tell you he never plans on working a day in his life. He milked that unemployment for as long as he could, took every extension he could. When it ran out, he had his dad go work. He lives with his parents, with his wife and 2 kids mind you. It’s those people I have zero respect for.

    Money like this is for people who NEED help, not a hand out.

  4. Joy says:

    I agree with everyone. If I could have a wish it would be to help people for what they need the help for. If they’re $100 short at the end of the week or month, help them with just that and let them work. I feel a lot of people are close to being able to make ends meet and but our system is like a blanket. You either need help and get it or you don’t. It’s all or nothing and things aren’t always just this black and white. I also think it forces people to maybe work for cash and take that money under the table because they’re scared and that messes everything up.

    I think this whole thing needs an overhaul. I’ve needed help a couple times in my life but I didn’t take it. I felt embarrassed and you feel a sense of shame but I just went out got a part time job in addition to my school job but I also know it’s not always that easy. I know quite a few people who only need a little help but if they can’t make their payments working a minimum wage job they just can’t take it. Why not let them take that job so they can feel worthwhile and give them a hand after that???

    Or is that too easy??

    • SKL says:

      I think the only reason we even need to have this conversation is because there really are fewer jobs than people looking for work. That was not the case for most of my adulthood. The nature of the “handout” has changed from being mostly a compensation for being unmotivated, to being an actual safety net for many people.

      I think that in the long run, people need to live beneath their means and save for the tough times. During the good times that ended a couple years ago, people got the feeling that they were “entitled” to a lot of material stuff they don’t need. So when bad stuff happens to them, not only do they have no personal safety net, but they have a really unsustainable lifestyle. And, they will never admit this was due to their own choices or that there is still something they can do to at least dull the pain. The popular usage of the word “need” has changed a lot over the decades.

      I think if people would try to go back to the “thrifty” mindset of earlier times, it would be a lot more feasible to help a family member or friend who has fallen on hard times. But if your laid-off friend has a mortgage on a $250K house, what are you supposed to do for him – especially when it’s happening to so many people at the same time? There was a time when taking up a collection among friends / neighbors could solve a problem. We have largely put that option out of reach.

      I think the unemployment compensation situation is unsustainable, and to me, that’s the biggest reason it needs to change. I know not everyone getting the benefits is a lazy or wasteful person. But, you can’t beat water from a stone! The more they tax the people who are still earning, the less those people can actually take steps to prevent this kind of thing from happening in the future (i.e., save, help family, give charity, hire people for honest work).

    • SKL says:

      I was thinking about this some more. Old Testament law required that landowners leave a little of the harvest behind in the fields, for the widows and orphans and travelers to gather. It wasn’t really a handout. More of an opportunity to have less competition to work to satisfy basic needs. It would be nice if we could figure out a way to implement this kind of law in modern times. What are some possible examples? Is it possible for the government to run this kind of program, and if not, could charities or individuals implement some version of it? Problem is, if we tried at the individual level, we’d just be paying twice, as the gov’t would still tax us to pay for their poorly designed schemes.

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