This is the legacy of the Reagan era: keep hacking away at vital parts of the safety net so politicians can proclaim they didn't raise taxes. It makes as much sense as selling your car's spare tire and jack.
Republicans used tax cuts as a way to bludgeon Democratic opponents, and instead of making voters understand how vital these government services are, Democrats far too often agreed with the Republicans and raced to cut everything they could. And now, when we need it most, the unemployment system is literally falling apart.
Who could have predicted that if you keep slicing vital services, you wouldn't have them when you need them?
WASHINGTON — Years of state and federal neglect have hobbled the nation’s unemployment system just as a brutal recession has doubled the number of jobless Americans seeking aid.
In a program that values timeliness above all else, decisions involving more than a million applicants have been slowed, and hundreds of thousands of needy people have waited months for checks.
And with benefit funds at dangerous lows even before the recession began, states are taking on billions in debt, increasing the pressure to raise taxes or cut aid, just as either would inflict maximum pain.
Sixteen states, with exhausted funds, are now paying benefits with borrowed cash, and their number could double by the year’s end.
Call centers and Web sites have been overwhelmed, leaving frustrated workers sometimes fighting for days to file an application.
While the strained program still makes more than 80 percent of initial payments within three weeks — slightly below the standard set under federal law — cases that require individual review are especially prone to delay. Thirty-eight states are failing to make those decisions within the federal deadline.
For workers who survive a paycheck at a time, even a week’s delay can mean a missed rent payment or foregone meals.
This is the part of the article that sets my blood boiling:
“Lower tax rates make it easier to attract business,” said Doug Holmes, president of UWC, a group that advocates on behalf of employers. “We don’t want to spend a whole lot of time beating ourselves up because we didn’t raise taxes enough. Nobody anticipated a recession this size.”
Yeah, nobody except a couple of Nobel Prize-winning economists and a bunch of dirty hippies with computers.