Advertisement

Santorum: Extended Unemployment Benefits Create ‘Too Big Of A Social Safety Net’

In response to the Great Recession and the continuing high unemployment that has followed in its wake, Congress wisely extended unemployment benefits beyond the traditional 27 weeks, with unemployed workers in the hardest hit states eligible for up to 99 weeks of benefits. These extended benefits were put in place over the strong objections of Republicans, who first filibustered an extension on the Senate floor, and then only agreed to approve the extension if it were paired with tax cuts for the wealthy.

Proving that the GOP is not through picking on those who lost their jobs during the recession, GOP 2012 hopeful Rick Santorum appeared on CNBC this morning where he claimed that extended unemployment benefits have created “too big of a social safety net”:

I’m talking about success from the standpoint of traditional capitalist success, in investing, in innovating, in succeeding, and not saying, well, we’re going to tax you more, we’re going to regulate you more because you’re successful. No. And by the way 99 weeks of unemployment — I always use the example, in Pennsylvania we have one of our big, favored companies is Hershey. I remind people that Milton Hershey, the person who started the Hershey chocolate company, went bankrupt four times. Now imagine if back in the late 1800’s you’d had a program of 99 weeks of unemployment benefits. Would there ever have been a Hershey chocolate company? And probably the answer is no! So we’re not doing favors by creating too big of a safety net, nor are we doing any favors by hammering businesses who are successful.

Watch it:

The sad truth is that the nation has to create millions of jobs just to get back to the employment level from before the recession. There were still 7 million fewer jobs in April 2011 than in December 2007, and 43 percent of the unemployed have been out of work for six months or more. As CAP chief economist Heather Boushey noted, “there is a large backlog of workers waiting in the unemployment queue as well as millions who have given up searching, but still want to work.”

Advertisement

As to Santorum’s particular argument — that unemployment benefits discourage people from looking for other work — research by the San Francisco Federal Reserve has found that workers who qualify for unemployment benefits stay unemployed just 1.6 weeks longer than those who do not qualify for such benefits. Republican lawmakers in several states, though, have taken Santorum’s advice to the extreme, cutting benefits to the bone.