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Editorial: A terrible time to cut off unemployment benefits

Extended unemployment benefits for the 1.3 million people receiving them are set to expire three days after Christmas. About 1,100 of those recipients live in New Hampshire. Democrats, including President Obama, want to extend them yet again to keep more households out of poverty and aid the economy. Republicans, citing the $25 billion 10-year cost of an extension, say enough is enough. They contend that the benefits, which differ radically from state to state, discourage recipients from seeking work or accepting low-paying jobs.

The Democrats’ position is more right than wrong. The cost of extending benefits would be offset by the extra economic activity generated, activity that could provide employers with an incentive to add jobs. And studies indicate that only a tiny percentage of the long-term unemployed are content to remain on the rolls rather than work.

The week after Christmas is the worst possible time to pull the rug out from under households that rely on extended benefits. Any reserves held by recipients will likely have been exhausted by higher fuel bills and a modest attempt to participate in the holiday season. Recipients would be left with no income and no way to heat their homes, pay their mortgages, purchase medications or prevent eviction. The cost of supporting them would be passed down from the federal government to local taxpayers in the form of higher outlays for rent subsidies, fuel assistance and other aid.

Congress should extend benefits, which might have to be done in legislation separate from the current budget bill. The government has never eliminated extended benefits when the national unemployment rate is as high as the current 7.3 percent. The economy has improved, but there are still three applicants for every job opening.

The long-term unemployed, those out of work for at least 27 weeks, face more obstacles than their predecessors. Technology changes so rapidly that employers fear the skills the long-term unemployed have are out of date. The very fact that you have been out of work for a long time is often a strike against you.

The economy is more global than ever. Workers in more and more fields, white-collar workers included, must compete against foreign workers willing to do the same job for much lower pay. Technology and automation that includes, for example, the increased use of robots has allowed employers to make do with fewer workers. There are 1.6 million fewer jobs than there were prior to the recession.

The jobs many of the long-term unemployed lost were in manufacturing. The jobs created as the economy improved have largely been in the service sector and low paid. Will society, and the economy, really be better off if unemployed engineers, teachers, journalists and managers are forced by the end of benefits to take an unskilled, low-wage job? We suspect not.

We are sympathetic to the argument that extending benefits risks adding to the debt that coming generations of workers will have to pay. And we, too, believe that at some point, no matter what one’s level of past accomplishment, a low-paying job is better, and fairer to taxpayers, than no job. To that end, we propose a compromise that congressional Republicans might support, since their states are home to many of the long-term unemployed.

Extend long-term benefits for another six months or year, but phase them out slowly, at a rate of 5 or 10 percent per month. That would keep recipients from falling into abject poverty in winter but give them an ever-increasing incentive to find a job.


A column on yesterday’s Forum page incorrectly stated that the Concord police substation at Royal Gardens is new. The complex has had such a police outpost for many years. In a planned renovation, that outpost will be housed in a new community center.

Legacy Comments12

Fool me once shame on you fool me twice shame on me. What is the following CM's statement based on?: The Democrats’ position is more right than wrong. As a young woman just out of college I find the democrats policies very destructive. The lure of Obama's hope and change speeches were very seductive but they were based on nothing. I graduated with honors with a 4 year degree and I can't find a full time job. All I can get is part time work of 20 hours or less. I don't want my future to require that I live with my parents and depend on the government. I don't appreciated being stuck with the bill for bigger more intrusive. My generation was fooled once and we are paying the price of it. I won't be fooled again and I am sure many my age won't be fooled either. More unemployment benefits and Obamacare, don't help me it only makes it harder for me to get a full time job.

Knowing well ahead of time when their extended benefits would run out they should be working on paying their bills rather than over spending on the commercialized holidays. Christmas was never meant to be about spending money. It's supposed to be about the birth of Jesus. I'm not a religious person myself but that doesn't change the fact of what Christmas is all about. If people over spend during this time it's their own fault. Anytime is a bad time to lose an income but stating that because it's the holiday season in my opinion is just plain dumb.

actually the current unemployment rate is 7.0.....and there are millions of jobs that go unfilled each have to be willing to go to the places that there are jobs, and get training in whats available. That does not seem to happen..why not?

Probably because it takes money to move and retrain and they don't have it after years of wotking for low wages thanks to the sellout of goverment to corporations

Pushing the extension to 99 weeks is further proof that NObama and the democrats expensive economic plan DIDNT WORK. Further proof again that the democrats Keynesian Economic theory does not work.. NEXT up is the NObamaKare recession brought to you 100% by a democrat partisan vote

Kind of a weak rant here sail. The caps didn't really give you the mean edge you were looking for. You can do better and you know it. Put your heart into man!

another Hallmark statement from the clueless left

Sail, you are absolutely correct! There are LOTS of jobs available, but as long as so many 'unemployed' are given free stuff, there is no incentive to work.

Not sure how many weeks are allowed now but I would think that 52 weeks is enough. Unfortunately, "Democrats, including President Obama" are directly responsible for the employment situation through their policies and regulation.

Typical right wing think tank supplied argument. To actually place the blame on only democrats is truly pathetic It is truly unfortunate that 52 weeks is not sufficient but today's job market is not same as decades past. There are very few non service jobs without specific skills and training required. Then there is the ultimate Catch 22, if you are unemployed longer than 6 -8 months, you are specifically told not to apply. So you can't get some jobs because you have been without a job for too long. Only in America???

It is troubling that both congresswomen kuster and shea- porter voted to eliminate benefits of those who find themselves in this unfortunate predicament while they voted themselves a pay raise.

Of course they deserve a pay raise: they have now cut the number of days scheduled to work to 113 in 2014, when polled by Americans on honesty and ethical standards only 8% gave high marks (they barely beat out lobbyist) and look at all the great things they accomplished since their last pay raise. Without pay raises we could lose their service and force them into the private sector and that would not be good. Look at Judd Gregg, he did not even last 1 year in private industry after all those years on the teat.

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