I’ve spent a while reading statements from various right-wing politicians – Rand Paul being one of the more prominent – that extended unemployment benefits are a bad thing. You see they may increase the deficit, and (gasp!) they may cause people to put off taking low-level, low-paid jobs! There seems to be two major core assumptions: That the extension of the benefits decreases people’s willingness to look for work; and that there are plenty of jobs available, if only those lazy unemployed would just take them. To back up their case, they’ll come up with an apocryphal business owner whose minimum wage jobs are just going begging, because the unemployed won’t take them.
I’ve heard it from not only the politicians, but various other members of the tea party wing of the Republican Party in their blogs and letters to the editors. The problem with it? It’s not backed up by any facts. The studies that have been done don’t show that extended benefits acts to decrease people’s motivation to look for work. It also ignores the current economic reality that for every job, there’s 5 job seekers. The other reality they don’t see? Even if many of the unemployed are willing to work that minimum wage job, they still wouldn’t be hired.
I know this from personal experience. A decade ago, I went through a period of extended unemployment, without the help of extended benefits. Here’s what happens: First, you’re looking for jobs in your field. Then you widen your search to jobs in related fields. Then anything you’re remotely qualified for. Finally, you go for anything at all. In the time frame I was unemployed, which was a much less serious recession than this one, I sent out over 2500 resumes and applications. I received a total of 10 interviews, and no job offers. Yes, I applied everywhere. You want to know something? Your local convenience store, McDonalds, Burger King, etc. won’t hire you if you have an advanced degree and were previously a white collar worker. Entry level jobs? Not a chance. You learn to hate the phrase “you’re overqualified.” I heard it a lot. It’s a continuing, on-going and depressing routine. You send out applications, resumes. You scour every job search site in existence and send out more. Most of the time, you hear nothing at all – not even a “not interested.” Once in a while you get an interview, but then you find out that you’re not going to get the job – one place only interviewed me because they were required to interview X number of people before they could hire the person they were going to hire in the first place.
So I know what it’s like. I’m fortunate in this recession to have a stable job, and even getting an occasional call about other positions. But I know people who aren’t as lucky as me. They’ve gone from middle income, solid professionals to desperate – and there are no jobs. None at all. Not even the “low income jobs” are available. Yet, somehow, a group of conservatives with absolutely no experience with it, and no willingness to listen to real data and real people, feel free to bloviate about it. In their imagination, there are lots of jobs available, if only people would just suck it up and accept minimum wage. That they themselves have “recession-proof” careers, and/or a lot of money, and have never had to really look for those sorts of jobs isn’t relevant to them. They’re clueless, and they take a great deal of pride in being clueless. I know they do, because all the data says they’re wrong, and they still spout that crap.