How Entitlement Killed Unemployment

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When a person becomes unemployed and is allowed benefits they are required to make two job contacts per week to maintain their benefits.  At one end of the spectrum there are people pushing as hard as they can to find a job.  They are visiting prospective employers, sending out resumes, networking and volunteering to increase their exposure to those that might be able to direct them to an opportunity.  In my world, these people seem to be rare.  Maybe not because there are fewer of them but because they don’t stay unemployed long.  Some do, of course, but many are off to the next opportunity.

Then there is the other extreme.  These are the people that see unemployment as an entitlement.  Since it was made available it must be theirs to claim.  These are the people that walk into a business, apply, and quickly leave with no actual interest in employment.  If a business owner or manager asks to visit with the applicant they will share they are only making the contact to maintain their unemployment.

A number of people fit in the middle.  They are adjusting to the lower income and actually consider it a half paid vacation.  They are a bit like the grasshopper in the old story of The Grasshopper and the Ant.  When the end of their employment comes close to an end the motivation to acquire a job will start.

Please don’t assume that any specific item here is to dishonor anyone truly trying to gain employment.  That isn’t the goal.  The point is to recognize that there are people all along the scale.  My goal is to show that components of our current system need to be adjusted to recognize realities.  Components include the attitude and choices of employers, employees, and the government.

It is time to take a look at a few facts about employers, employees and government.  This is just one man’s perspective so let me know if you feel something here is incorrect.

First the government.  First and foremost government is directed by our elected officials.  Every area or department of government then does what it thinks it should from there.  Our elected officials want to be elected.  They merge the emotional wishes of their constituents with their own personal perspective.  They take this romantic soup and create the laws and the basic outline of systems associated that departments and agencies use.

Second the employee.  Speaking from my recently new experience with the Employer’s Council of Iowa, the employee is the “client”, “customer,” and “member” of the state employment agency.  That puts the common citizen in a particularly odd and powerful position.  The voter hires the government and then tells the government what he/she wants.  Our basically immoral mindset motivates us to care more about “What’s in it for me?” and less about “How or who will pay for this?”  The elected official says, “What can I do for you?”  The employee says, “Give me more for less.  I’m entitled to it.”

Lastly, the employer. The employer is the odd one out.  Since the number of employers is far less than the number of employees the voice of the employer is much smaller.  In effect the employee and the government merge efforts to push the employer to execute as directed.  It is a lot like Cinderella and her evil step mother and step sisters.  To run a business in the United States the business owner must accept this relationship of government, employees and people.  Some will argue but it is hard to understand if you haven’t lived it.  I’m sure it is a little like childbirth.  Knowing my wife of 20+ years as I do and watching her deliver our children as I did, I know that even loving and caring for her as much as I do there is no way I could know either the pain or the depth of emotion felt by a mother.  The same goes for the business.  It’s often been felt that the business is the child of the entrepreneur much as the child is of the mother.

With the landscape understood, I’ll cut to the chase.  Iowa is pumping tens of millions of dollars into making sure employers aren’t hiring people as independent contractors when they should be employees.  The main reason is that hiring people as independent contractors avoids paying unemployment taxes.  The government provided wonderful benefits and extended them for a very long time draining resources.  Now with resources drained they are spending, in Iowa’s case, over $50,000,000 to audit this one are of operations alone in an effort to lower losses and improve revenues. 

I don’t condone skirting the law to save money.  It is not right and shouldn’t be tolerated.  What is most painful is to watch the government threaten, audit and penalize businesses (which ultimately are only made up of people) while they only require two applications a week be completed and there is no accountability for those who refuse work or interviews.  Our government and agencies trip over themselves to serve the client, customer, member then seem to turn a blind eye to improper and in my eyes immoral and illegal behavior.  Lastly, why not audit the claimant?  Did they make a reasonable effort?  Were they interested?  Did they wear shoes to apply?  Yes, indeed I’ve personally seen multiple people over the years come in to apply and not wear shoes.  As a matter of fact I’ve seen them come in using vulgar language, with it printed on their t-shirt, un-bathed, and most often simply sharing that they aren’t interested in a job, they are just making their two contacts required.

Another cut making the wound deeper is that employers are scared to death of regulatory departments.  In most cases a business won’t turn and fight unless it is life or death.  Once a regulatory misstep is so great that a business may fail because of it the business has nothing else to lose so fights back.  If it isn’t that bad they try to duck lower than their competitor and hope the competitor takes the bullet.

As a community of citizens we’ve been distracted from the broader view of government and redirected to isolated problems individually that don’t considering the whole.

I’ve lost a great deal of hope in our country.  Why?  Because hope is empty and distracting without a method and we certainly aren’t interested in holistic methods.  We’re interested in today’s comforts much more than tomorrow’s meals.  Our system is to offload responsibility to the government.  Then we complain and wrongly claim, “There is nothing I can do about it.”

It looks like a bunch of people in a boat floating in the middle of an ocean.  The boat starts to leak but rather than do the hard work of fixing a problem in a precarious situation the passengers argue about whose fault it is and why it is someone else’s fault.  The water continues to come in and when the boat gets desperately full they argue about who will bail, why, and for how long losing site of the fact the leak needs to be fixed.  The boat is perilously unstable and then the storm blows.  In this case it looks like they will drown before they choose to fix the leaks and bail like hell.  Bail doesn’t mean dollars.  Bail is a verb indicating work in this situation.

Answer these questions for yourself.  Why are other countries starting to advertise in the United States stating they are a better place to live, own and operate a business than the United States?  If that is true, what will keep businesses here?  Especially international businesses?  Why, when someone is unemployed and drawing benefits are they only required to make two contacts in a seven day period?  Why, when claims are so high and resources drained so low is the government not also looking at the claimants to investigate fraud?  Why, at the same time, are so many companies, even in these terrible economic times saying they can’t find good people?  Too many grasshoppers and not enough ants.

Ultimately our troubles are of our own making.  We individually are not doing enough and are not feeling responsible enough.  In the past people made such comments as, “Someday we will have to pay.”  We may not see it but today we are paying and we will continue to pay until such time as we understand the truth of what is happening and demand of both ourselves and others the hard work and higher standards necessary.


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