Don’t extend unemployment benefits

Guest Editorial
Here’s a wrinkle in the ongoing battle over federal unemployment benefits: Michigan’s Legislature is getting a chance to say no to extending them.

If it takes a state Legislature to put the clamps on out-of-control Washington spending, so be it. Michigan lawmakers have an opportunity here, and they should take it.

At issue is extending jobless checks for state residents who have used up 79 weeks of benefits. It takes a vote by the Legislature to push them up to the 99-week mark. If that doesn’t happen by April 1, an estimated 35,000 Michiganders will stop receiving checks.

The argument for these long-term benefits has been the recession. That made sense when Michigan’s economy (and the nation’s) was tanking, but not today. The state’s unemployment rate fell below 11 percent in January, and there’s ample evidence that a recovery is under way.

Since last summer, too, many employers have noticed they could not attract enough qualified, motivated applicants for job openings. The strong suspicion is that jobless benefits are becoming less a safety net than a reason for job seekers to stay home. That was never their purpose.

“Enough is enough,” said Rich Studley, president of the Michigan Chamber of Commerce (as reported by Gongwer News Service).

We have to agree. Long-term jobless benefits were an exceptional response to an exceptional situation. No one should feel entitled to them.

Let’s hope the Legislature sees it that way, too.