Tea Partiers are ignited about the idea of abolishing long ago formed agencies that have been cemented in stone buildings along Constitution Avenue. They believe that good government concepts never really die and eventually become entitlements that stymie original intent. However, once formed, these ideas take hold in the American consciousness and we begin to believe we are entitled to them as unalienable rights.
Take unemployment insurance for example. Like defense, education, and the rule of law, unemployment compensation has its roots in increasing the efficiency of capitalism. With a temporary stipend, unemployed workers are free to move from businesses that are sliding past their plateau of usefulness to those that are innovating. Without the fear of losing their homes and other assets, employees move to healthy businesses even during economic downturns. Because this idea supported the beliefs of both parties of congress, unemployment insurance passed by an overwhelming majority in 1935 as part of the Social Security Act.
In most downturns, the unemployed are able to find jobs within the insured period of 26 weeks. However, an underlying sickness gutted our sustainable job base during the last thirty years as we borrowed our way through successive economic bubbles. Only after the credit default swap bubble collapsed our economy did we understand that our jobs were gone. Not only had our manufacturing blue collar jobs been shipped overseas, but our technically skilled jobs were exported as well. Our average period of unemployment has now swelled to 37 weeks.
It was only natural that Congress quickly adjusted the unemployment period as a stop gap measure when faced with the Great Recession. They rightly protected our longer term unemployed to keep them from losing all they have gained in contributing to our country. Now that the ranks of the 99ers, those that have fallen past the safety net of extended unemployment, are swelling, America is debating if unemployment benefits should extend further, and whether the unemployed are entitled to a longer benefit period.
The debate on entitlements needs a paradigm shift. Instead of discussing whether unemployed should receive more than two years unemployment compensation, we should be creating a process that allows our citizens to quickly re-enter the workforce and once again contribute to America’s success.
My voucher plan is a paradigm shift. Instead of paying unemployed to sit on the sidelines of our economy, America instead invests in our future by getting our people back to work. Small businesses can hire voucher employees at their unemployment rate. In return, Voucher employees can work twenty five hours per week and receive the same pay they would have received through unemployment. The Federal Government can then reimburse employers the employees’ wages without increasing the unemployment budget.
Tea Party members will be concerned that this voucher plan will become yet another entitlement. They can rest assured that the voucher plan will be a relic of the Great Recession, created to automatically expire as the economy improves. Voucher dollars will decrease as the percent of unemployment decreases, requiring employers to cover more of voucher employees’ wages. As a result, voucher employees in barely sustainable businesses will transfer to healthier ones.
Some claim that the unemployed feel entitled to remain unemployed, collecting extended payments. While we can all find a few examples of misuse of American altruism, I have found that most people want meaningful employment. The entitlement argument stems from the disincentive our unemployment system creates for rejoining the workforce. It’s not unreasonable to compare available jobs with current unemployment payments. When a worker leaves a job that paid $14 per hour, is getting $8 per hour for unemployment, and is faced with a job that pays $9 per hour, their incentive to work is only $1 per hour; substantially less than their former job and only a dollar more than unemployment. Unemployment should not create a re-employment inertia differential. My job voucher plan creates the largest re-employment incentive because unemployment extension payments end.
Americans might be concerned that my voucher plan would be used to balloon what they believe is already too large a government providing too many entitlements. They cite previous government programs that raised social benefit costs without creating profit generating, taxable products or services. My job voucher plan, however, grows jobs only in private sector small businesses, and can be supported by existing government agencies without expanding their budgets.
Others claim that my voucher plan is just an entitlement to small business, creating an inefficient makeshift set of jobs for the unemployed. While I agree that my plan can rapidly employ all Americans, and as such may create some early, inefficient placement of workers, it nonetheless will also create a micro-venture capitalist function for millions of small businesses. Some of these ventures will successfully create taxable revenue, and some will be incredibly successful, paying back America’s investment through future taxes on corporate profits and employee compensation.
Finally, concerns have been raised that any program such as this may create an entitlement mindset that all Americans must work. Government work programs have been abused by some to collect compensation while performing work at subpar levels. This problem is self correcting in my voucher plan. Employees would still be governed by private sector principles. If the job is not a good fit, employees will not find safe harbor in this program. For the program to be successful, government intervention will have to be restricted to current EEO and ADA requirements. But, in the end, one entitlement should fly true. America will find it is entitled to renew its future.