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Want UI Benefits? You Gotta Work For 'Em

Sen, Mark Pryor (D-AR) has come up with a great idea: Mandatory "voluntary" service in order to get extended unemployment insurance benefits.
Want UI Benefits?  You Gotta Work For 'Em

Because if you're not struggling enough with chronic unemployment, Sen Mark Pryor (D-AR) has an idea that he thinks will make you appreciate a work ethic:

Sen. Mark Pryor is floating the idea of requiring community service or public service in exchange for receiving extended unemployment benefits.

The Arkansas Democrat filed the proposal last week as an amendment to the jobless benefits extension measure pending on the Senate floor. The Pryor amendment would require individuals to perform public service each week in order to maintain their unemployment benefits, with several exceptions including those for illnesses and the need to care for children.

“Extended compensation, including any such compensation under a temporary program, shall not be payable to an individual for any week in which such individual does not perform at least 10 hours of public service,” Pryor’s amendment states.

Um, not to put too fine a point on it, Sen. Pryor, but WTF? You know what this is known as? INDENTURED SERVITUDE.

We've already paid for unemployment benefits. That money is taken out of our paychecks each time as insurance against some future possible term of unemployment. Even with that, we've placed all sorts of demands upon a person to receive these benefits they've already paid for--they have to prove they're looking a job or getting training for new hire-able skills. I don't know about anyone else, but when I was between jobs, I put in almost 30 - 40 hours a week in looking for a job: calling around, putting my name in at employment agencies, checking classifieds, working on resumes and writing samples, going to workshops to make contacts, not to mention actual interviewing. But Mark Pryor thinks we should give up some more labor--for free--in order to receive money we've already had taken out of our paychecks.

Hey, here's an idea, Sen. Pryor: how about if there's public service work that needs to be done, WE HIRE AND PAY PEOPLE TO DO IT. Ironically, as a History major, you might have read up about the Works Progress Administration that FDR put into place to combat unemployment after the Great Depression.

The Works Progress Administration provided jobs for unemployed people in the United States during the Great Depression and was responsible for building various infrastructure projects across the United States, such as LaGuardia airport. Other government organizations also existed that provided work to people during the Depression, such as the Civilian Conservation Corps and the Public Works Administration. However, no other program was as large or as extensive as the WPA. It ultimately employed millions of Americans who otherwise would not have been able to find jobs.

The WPA provides an empirical example of the impact of a work program in times of economic recession. It has also become a lightning rod for contention between the right and the left. The right charges that it was inefficient and a "socialist" program. The left argues that it helped reduce unemployment from 25% to 10%, modernized our nation's infrastructure, and provided jobs for people who otherwise would have gone hungry. Many economists argue that we need to have a similar program today in order to reduce unemployment until the economy can pick up again.

Hmmm....maybe we could try something like that instead of degrading unemployed workers with forced volunteerism.

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