Funemployment Hits Record High
BY JUSTIN CASE
Montana’s most recent seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate came in unchanged at 7.3 percent recently. “The unchanged rate suggests that employ-ers remain uncertain about the future and are hesitant to add more workers until indications of a stronger recovery emerge,” Labor Commissioner Keith Kelly told the Associated Press.
Yet there’s more to this story than meets the eye, especially after Congress extended unemployment benefits to 99 weeks—almost two years of potential benefits.
Here’s how it works.
Some people are having a hard time supporting their families as they collect unemployment payments from the government, while they genuinely search for work and do with less. Unemployment insur-ance premiums paid by their employers helped ensure a transition for these folks back into the workforce, and those premiums can go up, meaning employers can pay more after workers are laid off and file for unemployment.
Others, though, and they are many, enjoy a free ride and merely go through the motions, filling out applications for jobs they never intend to take, and then they simply fill out forms on the internet and wait for a check. And if the unemployed person is single, with no children, chances are he or she can get by on unemployment without too much trouble for quite some time, even for 99 weeks.
In effect, they get a paid vacation. Hence, the popularized term funemployment, one used not by critics but by the funemployed themselves.
Funemployment is not so uncommon in places like Bozeman and Livingston where a person can fish, ski, loll in the sun, and collect a check every two weeks for their effort—or lack of it.
If you doubt this is true, talk to local business people who do a lot of hiring, more than one of whom confided, in support of this premise, that they can often spot an individual working this scam, as he or she wastes the business owner’s time and your tax dollars. Business owners say, in fact, that it is nothing unusual. What’s more, it’s your government and the people you elect that foster funemployment at the expense of employers and taxpayers.
You get more of what you subsidize (less of what you penalize, or tax), that’s an immutable law of nature, a simple matter of incentives, and so nobody should be surprised. Anybody with any experience in life knows this. And these payouts account for a lot of wasted tax dollars but lots of votes for the political hacks who promote them without a care in the world (all in the name of compassion) which explains their incentive—and that amounts to nothing more than vote buying using cold hard cash.
We get more home buying if the government subsidizes mortgages, more car buying if the government forks over cash for clunkers, and so naturally we get more unemploy-ment by paying people not to work. How could any reasonable person expect any other result? And now, the free ride can go on for as long as 99 weeks because our politicians are such “compassionate” people.
Yet, I hardly blame the funem-ployed who are simply responding to the incentive (as a dog to a bone, a bee to honey), one though that keeps our unemployment rate stubbornly high (9.6 percent nationally) as lazy fun seekers resist getting off the dole and getting back to work until it is absolutely necessary, in other words when their funemployment runs out, at which point they are suddenly motivated to get a job.
One need not, you see, take any job that pays less or that’s in a different field than the job lost. In other words, you don’t have to take a job as a supermarket clerk if the job you lost was as a mechanic. Some people have families to support, or simply believe in honest work, and therefore act honorably and get off the dole—but many do not.
Accounts have surfaced recently of employers making trips to job fairs only to find that too few laid off workers are interested in working, as many applicants use such events as opportunities, not to work, but to file applications so they can collect unemployment checks.
Michael Hatchell, a 52-year-old mechanic in North Carolina, told the Wall Street Journal recently he’s turned down more than a dozen offers during the 59 weeks he’s been unemployed because they didn’t pay more than the $450 a week he gets paid to stay unemployed. One auto parts store offered him $7.75 an hour. “I was not going to put myself in a situation where I was making that small of a wage,” said Hatchell.
A case such as the above is not classic funemployment, merely self-interest, but that’s the operating principle in all cases. And who can blame the guy for not taking a pay cut? His decision though helps keep the unemployment rate high, because Hatchell would otherwise haven taken some job rather than have no income.
Many, many people kick back and enjoy the ride. They may even take work on the side. —Immoral? Yes, but to be expected, and it’s rampant. So next time you hear those awful unemployment numbers on the news hovering right around 10 percent, keep in mind that your government is paying people not to work, for up to 99 weeks, as it subsidizes unemployment and helps keep the unemployed funemployed.