Garret Nelson: More take government benefits than have full-time jobs


February 20, 2014 

Rian Van Leuven’s Jan. 24 guest opinion about the end of long-term unemployment was full of hyperbole, false generalizations and liberal drivel. He wanted us to imagine looking for a job, unable to pay bills, having to prioritize expenditures and generally going through a hard time as a family. Since when has any of that been a reason for the government, also known as the taxpayer, to pay all my bills endlessly?

I have been there, struggling, only a couple of years ago, and it was not fun. However, I never took unemployment, I paid for my own insurance, found a new job and never took a dime of any kind of government aid.

The American dream is alive, and federal unemployment insurance still exists, but it will no longer be extended for more than a year or indefinitely. I am not characterizing unemployment insurance as a handout to start with, but I have known individuals who were less than truthful in fulfilling the requirements to have unemployment continue.

Van Leuven wants us to assume that all who continue on unemployment are genuinely looking for another job, when that is simply not the case. He also wants us to assume that paying people to stay out of the workforce is somehow good for the economy. This assaults common sense. Recent research by the University of Pennsylvania and the Federal Reserve Bank in New York “contends that any such stimulus is dwarfed by the economic damage done by extending jobless benefits.” Numbers in North Carolina lead to this conclusion, where a reduction in jobless benefit length and generosity produced a decrease in the unemployment level.

Next from Van Leuven is encouragement to “demand that Congress create good jobs and restore opportunity.” What jobs can any form of government create that do not require more tax dollars to fund? This is the crux of the issue.

This isn’t Democratic vs. Republican. They are both sides of the same crippling coin. The philosophies that are driving our national and local politics have little to do with hard facts or realities and much to do with platitudes and class warfare.

Over 2.7 million people work for the federal government while 49 million people are on Medicare, almost 250,000 in Idaho alone.

The Census Bureau estimates that 151,014,000 Americans received benefits from one or more government programs in 2011. This includes 82,457,000 on Medicaid. We have more than 25 percent of our population on Medicaid, and more than 49 percent of households taking some form of government welfare.

On the other hand, it is estimated by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics that there were only 115.6 million full-time workers in 2012. This is where reality needs to start setting in for union supporters such as Van Leuven. We have nearly 155 million people in this country who are taking more out than they are putting in, if they pay taxes at all. All those individuals must be predominantly paid for by the 115 million. I am one of those 115 million.

The federal government is like our child. We are the ones who pay the bills, bail them out when they get caught making mistakes, and supposedly tell them what to do. It’s time, painfully, to take the credit card away from this rebellious brat.

I would like to counter Van Leuven’s imaginary scenario with one of my own. Imagine a country where we are so free that we “voluntarily” give almost half of what we earn to an agency that supposedly answers to us, simply so they don’t come throw us in jail and take the other half. Oh, wait, we’re already there.

Nelson lives in Sand Hollow with his wife and four children.

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