119 weeks of unemployment?

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Unemployment stands at 8.5 percent in America, and that number goes up and down weekly. In certain demographics – black males and younger Americans – the number of people who cannot find adequate employment is so high that it makes one wonder about whether or not America remains the land of opportunity.     

The Republican candidates debated in South Carolina last night and the topic of whether Congress extending unemployment benefits another 20 weeks, past the already existing 99 weeks available, in December was good economic policy.

Each candidate had a position, of course, and attacked President Obama for failing to fix the American economy despite the trillions that has been dumped into it over the course of the last three years.

The most interesting proposal to remedy the unemployment problem in our nation came from Newt Gingrich. Gingrich proposed that we require Americans to attend training or school instead of simply sending a check to someone’s house in exchange for no work.

His point was driven home when he said that 99 weeks is longer than it takes to get an Associate’s degree. His point was that America should be using the money spent on unemployment to train our citizens to master new skills, which will increase their chances of being employed.

Some might balk at this idea of requiring people to attend training and educational classes in exchange for an unemployment check. However, imagine if the tens of millions of unemployed people around the country were honing their skills in a new field, achieving a new level of education, and getting out of their house every day to continue participating in society in a productive way.

Whatever your position is on the topic of unemployment insurance, the answer is not to continue to extend benefits until further notice hoping for a drastic change in the American economy. The answer might lie in an innovative solution like paying businesses to keep employees employed.

For example, if a company has four employees and was going to lay one off, the government would come in and pay for 25 percent of every employee’s salary in order to keep everyone working. This would have benefits for everyone. First, the employee would still have his or her job. Second, the employee would be healthier psychologically by avoiding the loss of a job and the embarrassment, hardship, and stress. The business would be able to keep its employees so that when the economy rebounded they would be ready to seize upon opportunities. Finally, the government would spend the same amount of money keeping people employed as it currently does keeping them at home.

The last bite…

It’s Mardi Gras season and that means KING CAKE!! I love plain, cinnamon infused bread topped with an icing blanket and then covered in the traditional purple, green, and gold sprinkles. However, last night Courtney and I picked up a king cake from Rouses and were totally disappointed in the entire thing. The bread was dry, the cinnamon was like a paste, and the icing was hard as a rock. I give Rouses’ King Cake 1 (out of 5) crumbs!

Buddy Boe, a resident of Garyville, owns a public relations and program management company and is well known on the local political (and food) scenes. His column appears Wednesdays in L’Observateur.