Tennessee Lieutenant Governor Calls Unemployment Benefits A ‘Lifestyle’

Tennessee Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey (R)

Despite the necessary aid that unemployment benefits provide for those who have been laid off (not to mention the boost they give to the entire national economy), Republicans continue to attack and deride people who collect those benefits. In September, Rep. Steve King (R-IA) dismissed unemployment benefits as “welfare for people that won’t work,” and an Ohio state representative suggested his state drug test all benefit applicants. (He got the idea from Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R), who signed a law in June requiring drug tests for all welfare recipients.)

Now Tennessee Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey (R) thinks receiving unemployment benefits (an average of $285 per week in Tennessee) is simply a “lifestyle“:

Ramsey, during his “Red Tape Road Trip” luncheon highlighting government’s negative effect on business, said he’s been getting an earful from employers about people opting for an unemployment check rather than seeking a job when the state’s jobless rate remains well above 9 percent.

He cited a trucking company that wants but can’t find drivers and a heating and cooling firm with unfilled technician positions.

When does it become a benefit and when does it become a lifestyle?” Ramsey, R-Blountville, asked of the current unemployment compensation system. […] Beneficiaries aren’t pressed hard enough to look for work, Ramsey said.

While Jordan Young, Ramsey’s special assistant, insists there are jobs available, people should not have to forego benefits while they look for one (even assuming that they could move to where jobs are available). Nationally, there are more than four job applicants for every open position.

While Republicans like to claim that those on benefits are not looking for work, research from the San Francisco Fed has found that workers who qualify for unemployment benefits stay unemployed just 1.6 weeks longer than those who do not qualify for benefits. Meanwhile, without extended unemployment benefits, the United States economy would lose $57 billion, or 0.38 percent of GDP, in the first three months of 2012. Clearly Ramsey has not considered how this could impact Tennessee businesses during his “Red Tape Road Trip.”