Building an Economy that Works for Everyone

Unemployment benefits: Hope for a hard luck story

I have to wonder whether the Seattle Times editorial board did its homework before writing this editorial condemning bipartisan state legislation to increase unemployment benefits.

Did they run the numbers before printing: “High benefits also encourage recipients to be choosier about a new job and slower to look for one.”? Because here’s a look at them:

  • A worker earning Washington’s minimum wage of $8.55 per hour would gross about $1449 per month. If they got laid off? Less than $700 per month.
  • Someone earning $15 per hour would gross almost $2600 per month. If unemployed? Only $1200.

I wouldn’t be too choosy if that were my gross monthly wage.

Perhaps they should have paused to remember recent history before writing that state employees ‘may be swayed [to give benefits] by a good hard luck story’. Hello, irony? Seattle Times calling. Would that be the same kind of hard luck story the Times told state legislators in order to get themselves another tax break?

Especially during a recession, unemployment insurance helps people keep a roof over their head and food in the pantry while looking for a new job. It’s also good economic stimulus because our state relies so heavily on sales tax for public revenue; when UI benefits are spent, it helps our public balance sheet.

Government should be responsive to the needs of the people – that’s what government is for. As a business in an industry that has been hit harder than most by this recession, the Times should understand how important unemployment insurance is in these difficult economic times.

A more generous unemployment insurance system is both ‘dangerous’ and ‘reckless’, argues the Times. You know what feels dangerous to me? Arguing that employers shouldn’t have to pay their fair share for the social and economic structures that make this state a great place to live.

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