Long-term unemployment benefits expired Saturday, which means roughly 3,000 metro residents could lose all income. About 13,000 other Colorado residents may lose benefits and join more than 1.3 million nationally. Even if extended for three months by Congress in January, at President Barack Obama's urging, economic gravity will eventually bring the program down.
"If the economy was up and thriving, like it was 10 years ago, 26 weeks would be ample time (to find a job)," said Dean Stephany, who has been out of work for eight months, as quoted in Friday's Gazette. "Now you have people with master's degrees looking for menial jobs."
There's a reason for that. The economy has been on life support for years. As such, it doesn't produce enough wealth. Quantitative easing sustains the Wall Street class. Commercialized food stamp dependence keeps the poor barely fed. Prolonged unemployment payments keep former workers afloat.
The federal government, quite simply, encourages and facilitates a nonsustainable culture of dependence. It has turned human assets into long-term liabilities of government, which is funded only by credit and those fortunate enough to work.
The Obama administration has created the illusion that government can provide top-notch health insurance for all, regardless of ability to pay. It has advocated food stamp dependence with ads. It has bailed out mega corporations that didn't deserve to survive, creating barriers to entry for those who might otherwise create value. Americans have left the workforce in droves, by force or fiat, to become dependents of the federal government's Social Security Disability Insurance program. More than 11 million Americans live on federal disability payments, with nearly 5 million joining the ranks in the past five years. Those who toil for menial wages must question the value of their efforts, as others get by doing little or nothing.
If the administration's punish-success-and-reward-failure ideology wasn't obvious, Obamacare's launch removed any doubt. The program forces young, healthy, working Americans to pay exorbitant amounts for high-deductible policies that won't help unless they defy big odds and incur life-threatening conditions. Their policies are designed to subsidize health care consumption by the least healthy and wealthy among us. A constructive marketplace rewards those who maintain good physical, mental and financial health. A society of dependence, in a perpetual state of economic decline, preys on the strong by imposing unfair taxes.
Federal promotion of dependence would create a land of milk and honey, if the federal government were a font of wealth. It is not. Governments are essential liabilities funded only by profitable human endeavors. They don't possess giant pots of gold to share among citizens, creating magical societies in which individuals and families live in abundance without the bother of working to improve life for others around them. Any such mythical supply of capital could have no worth, as currency gleans value only from fruitful endeavors that allocate wealth from one party to another.
A country that doesn't struggle, with individuals constantly striving to produce more than they earn, cannot prosper and improve. It cannot have excellent, ever-improving medical care. It cannot have an increasingly abundant supply of food. It cannot flourish with the power of sustainable energy supplies. It cannot create circumstances in which one pays wages so another will help produce wealth. When humans do not work, societies fall apart. Visualize a colony of mostly dormant ants, with dwindling numbers willing to rebuild tunnels or transport food. The colony would devolve and ultimately fail.
A majority of Americans who struggle to survive on unemployment checks probably want to work hard in return for financial freedom. But they're caught in an economic morass. They are surrounded by dependence and a resulting dearth of innovation, effort and jobs. Until we restore federal policies that reward success and discourage failure, we will see Americans with graduate degrees competing for work as soda jerks and gas station clerks. We'll struggle recurrently with funding unemployment for just another three months.