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Making jobless go cold turkey isn't the answer [Video]

May 29, 2012|By David Lazarus

It's a mark of a civilized society that we look after the unfortunate during hard times. On that score, the United States is about to (once again) come up short.

Hundreds of thousands of long-term jobless Americans are now receiving their final unemployment checks sooner than they expected.

Congress renewed an extension of unemployment benefits in February, but it also phased in a reduction in the number of weeks of extended aid and made it tougher for states to qualify for cash. Since then, out-of-work people in 23 states have lost up to five months' worth of benefits.

Next month, an additional 70,000 people will lose benefits earlier than they expected, bringing the number of people cut off prematurely this year to close to half a million, according to the National Employment Law Project.

Republicans argue that continued unemployment benefits deter the jobless from looking for work. Democrats say it's important to help people who may be victims of circumstances beyond their control, and also note that the federal spending provides a boost to the economy.

All I know is that with the national unemployment rate topping 8% (and 13% in Los Angeles), millions of families are in need of help. Their plight comes as big businesses pull in record profits and fatten the wallets of their CEOs.

Making the jobless go cold turkey isn't just heartless, it's terribly shortsighted. The economic recovery remains on fragile ground. Cutting off a proven form of stimulus during a time of need will only exacerbate difficulties.

My test for such things is a simple one: What if it was your family that couldn't make ends meet?

Few politicians, I suspect, would hesitate to extend jobless benefits if it was their own loved ones on the line.

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