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The Public Slate


Unemployment Go-Round

Unemployment Go-Round
August 23
17:45 2014


Unemployment insurance in the United States has become self-sustaining machine for ensuring the continuation of the problem it is ostensibly combatting. Responsibility on a personal and local level has been eroded by a system which pays people to stay unemployed and rewards apathy from communities. Feeding into the problem is numbers reporting which uses incomplete statistics to justify the program and which creates a false sense of the actual impact being made.

The numbers being used to evaluate unemployment in the U.S. take into account only those who are actually able to qualify and receive payments. They do not inform about the large contingent of people who have either exhausted their benefits or who were unable to qualify for some reason. The numbers are only part of the problem, however. While it is true that they play a large part in sustaining the myth of efficacy, the issue is with the fundamental attitude in the system. It has become accepted and acceptable to create a “merry-go-round” of dependency rather than find better solutions. It really ought to be time to get off.

It is admirable for government to want a system of assistance for those who become unemployed, but that is a prospect which can never be big enough to do the job as envisioned. The bigger and more expensive the system becomes, the more likely it will collapse on itself. The solution, however doesn’t need to be bigger, it needs to be smaller.

The workforce in the U.S. has bought into the system of cyclical dependency. There is something entrepreneurial about finding employment which has all but disappeared from the process in America. During the worst periods of our history as a nation, when jobs were far more scarce than they are now, finding work was a consuming need. It motivated people to move across the country in search of opportunities. It prompted them to stand in lines daily, dressed in their best, in order to put their best foot forward and gain an advantage over the hordes of people wanting the same position. People needed to do real self-evaluation so that they knew the product they were offering and could sell it to employers. People took responsibility for themselves and their families and did what they had to in order to provide for them.

Everybody was in the same boat, and so communities took care of each other. People taught each other skills to make themselves more employable. They shared resources and bartered goods and services where there was need. Service organizations saw needs and worked to meet them. People became connected because they had to be connected to live. It was a system of inter-dependency rather than dependency, and it shaped the character of the nation. Necessity is the mother of invention, but somehow along the way as a nation it was decided that work was an entitlement and not a need. At some point, it became shameful to have to help each other out and fight for what was needed to survive. Instead of people taking responsibility for learning the skills they needed to get a job, any job,  to improve their standard of living and their lifestyle, a different set of values has emerged. The unemployed now find that they can wait for a weekly check that says they will be able to survive at a subsistence level rather than need to do anything more. It becomes a temptation to many to do exactly that.  This “merry-go-round” is difficult to get off of, having become part of the national culture at this point. This is a point in history, however, when it is more possible than ever before.

Technology has reached a point where that community spirit of inter-dependency can happen on a national or even global scale. Education and training are available at the fingertips for anyone who has the willingness to go get them. Information is power, and the model of only those who are able to find a way to mortgage their futures away to educational institutions gaining access to education is going the way of the Dodo. People can and will help each other. There are social networks and support forums for everything imaginable. If the amount of money poured into unemployment payments to perpetuate the cycle of dependency were to be poured into creating ways of bridging the digital divide for all Americans and giving people the tools to go out and help themselves, there could be a more immediate and permanent impact made on unemployment than the broken system ever could make. Not everything can be done on the internet, but as a tool for making real-world connections with the people who have the skills to fill a need, it can be invaluable in getting back to the point where people survived because they lived community. Community is no longer defined by geography, and the model of people helping people in a common experience has a vehicle now that can realistically be sustained and nurtured.  If government can recognize the opportunity to get back to people being responsible for themselves and to each other, it can get out of the hole it continues to dig itself into with respect to national unemployment numbers.

Opinion By Jim Malone



About Author

Jim Malone

Jim Malone

VP of Training and Development at the Guardian Liberty Voice, long-time political activist and writer with a firmly independent, view. Executive director for several news sites including and

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