Milbank quotes Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX): “I believe it is immoral for this country to have as a policy extending long-term unemployment (benefits) to people rather than us working on creation of jobs.” Voter’s in NY-23 ought to be familiar with this opinion: Rep. Tom Reed opposes extended unemployment benefits. Tom gives various reasons:
- Benefits were meant to be temporary
- Benefits are costly.
- Benefits discourage independence.
Unlike Pete Sessions, I don’t believe that Tom has claimed that benefits are immoral. That benefits were intended to be temporary doesn’t mean that they are no longer needed: unemployment statistics belie that. That they are costly doesn’t mean that they aren’t worthwhile. The claim that benefits discourage independence is self-serving nonsense: Americans prefer work to collecting unemployment when jobs are available. As proof of this I offer that most of us do work when we can find a job, even at low-paying, dead end jobs which may be exhausting and dangerous.
Sessions’ opinion as stated above is based on a false dichotomy: there is no reason that we can’t pay extended unemployment benefits while working to create jobs. Milbank doesn’t make that point, but goes on to question whether denying help to people who need it is moral.
The claim that unemployment is immoral is a facile claim — Dana Milbank does a good job of refuting it. A similar claim often made in political discourse is that something or other is unconstitutional. Usually no court opinion is cited or reason is given. When claims are made that a policy is immoral, unconstitutional or suffers some other drawback, the argument is stronger if a valid reason for that belief is given.
© William Hungerford – February 2014