Monday, July 26, 2010

Hoovervilles?

While on vacation last week we caught a late night discussion between Bill O'Reilly and John Stossel (both of them well-paid broadcasters and political pundits) that left me with a really bad taste in the mouth, so to speak.
They were discussing some Republicans' reluctance to vote for extending unemployment benefits for out-of-work people. (Granted, part of the issue was the fact that further unfunded benefits add to the national debt.)
Stossel seemed to be saying that during the Great Depression, unemployed workers left their homes and moved to "Hoovervilles" outside of cities. (The picture above is actually the "Bonus Army" encampment outside of Washington, DC, but it's the same general idea. You left home and you're camping out looking for work.)
Stossel said "relief societies" took care of these peoples' wants and needs, and did it in a far more economical manner than any government.
The real facts are that--obviously--neither Stossel or O'Reilly has ever had to draw unemployment. And probabably neither one really knows anyone who has. They're smug and affluent, and their theorizing is in danger of approaching the "Qu'ils mangent de la brioche" level.

Unemployment Compensation is one of the best things to come out of the post-Hoover era. An employer pays a small percentage into a fund as Unemployment Compensation Tax. When an employee is laid off, the employee can collect a small amount from the fund for a stipulated period. In this manner, the beneficiary can feed himself and his family, does not have to give up his living quarters, and can retain a modicum of dignity while looking for alternative employment.
The payoff for society is that we don't have families camping in vacant lots or living in vehicles.
Sometimes you wonder if the Chinese didn't have a good idea in rounding up the bureaucrats every few years and making them work in the rice fields. Might be good therapy for some of these pundits who are telling us what is good for us.

And while we're at it, I think we've had enough of this "let's go back to the Twenties" mentality. It's no secret that the "Middle Class" is going bye-bye. And through the magic of compound interest the rich are getting richer. All this is fine if you're talking about creating jobs, and so on, if that's what's really happening.
But now we're hearing that some people who really ought to know better are still touting a "Flat Tax" or "Fair Tax." Despite our national pluralism and diversity we're still in danger of ending with something less than a middle class republic.
Is there anybody out there talking sense these days?

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