Monday, November 17, 2008

Safety net? What safety net?

It is imperative that Jewish communities become economically self-sufficient, because relying on government welfare benefits to support us is certainly a failing strategy.

The New York Times
The Nation
Will the Safety Net Catch Economy’s Casualties?
Published: November 16, 2008

Economists rarely agree on anything, but a great many do agree on one unfortunate matter these days: the current economic downturn is likely to develop into the worst recession since the downturn of 1981-82.

The United States is a far different place. Government programs in place then to cushion and counter recessions have been scaled back sharply, raising questions about whether they are up to the task as the economic outlook darkens today.

Unemployment insurance is not as generous now. Yet the unemployment rate is at 6.5 percent and some forecasters say it could top 8 percent next year. It hit 10.8 percent in the early 1980s.

This is also the first severe economic slump since President Bill Clinton overhauled the welfare system and made it tougher to qualify for, and keep receiving, benefits. Many people who lose their jobs now and fall into poverty may not qualify for public assistance. Other programs designed in part to counter hard times — like job training and housing subsidies — have also been cut back...

...According to the report, tighter rules mean that just 37 percent of unemployed Americans are receiving jobless benefits today, down from 42 percent during the 1981-82 recession and 50 percent during the 1974-75 downturn. Americans today receive a maximum of 39 weeks of unemployment benefits, down from 65 weeks in the 1970s. The average weekly benefit is $293. And low-income workers — a category that tends to include women and those in part-time employment — are one-third as likely to receive unemployment insurance as higher-income workers.

Another liberal group, the Center for Budget Policy and Priorities, said that as states have imposed tougher restrictions on welfare, just 40 percent of very poor families who qualify for public assistance today actually end up receiving it, compared with 80 percent in the recessions of 1981-82 and 1990-91.

Liberal economists say the deterioration of the safety net will not only mean more pain and poverty for millions of families, but a longer recession. They say spending on social programs helps to stabilize the economy and counter the downward tug of recession...

...Rebecca Blank, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, noted that the recession of 2001 hurt factory workers most but had little effect on the low-wage jobs that many women hold.

“But this recession is really hitting those jobs, and the question is what will happen to that group of women. Is there a safety net?” she asked. Ms. Blank complained that low-wage-earning women often failed to qualify for unemployment benefits because many states do not provide such assistance to part-time workers or those who fail to work six quarters in a row.

“The other safety net for this group of workers is the traditional welfare program,” Ms. Blank said. “On that front, the news is not promising at all.”

Of course, in many Chereidi households, the women are the only ones who are gainfully employed to begin with - which is wrong on so many levels already - but here we see the main problem in action. Any woman's who's had to take time off in the year and a half before she loses her job to have a baby or care for a sick child will be denied unemployment benefits. And many, many women have only part-time jobs, relying on charities and their husband's kollel stipend to make up the rest. None of those women will qualify. Women really get the short end of this stick, especially Chereidi ones. Ironically, rules that the Republicans meant to stigmatize and motivate secular unwed mothers are going to come back on wed Chereidi ones.

And several states, including New York, are starting to look askance at people who are religiously married but claim to be legally unmarried on welfare applications to receive more or better benefits. With more and more people applying for welfare, this scam is going to start causing problems, too. I for one am sorry for the hardship this will cause, but I welcome the effect it will have on the community.

Lying to get welfare was a chillul Hashem from the get-go, and needs to stop. Claiming you're "not lying" because you're "technically" not legally married in your state (due to lack of a state marriage license) is a worse chillul Hashen - it makes Chereidi women looks like unwed mothers and be counted as such sluts in census files and other official government data. It's shameful in every way.

Men need to step up to the plate and find full-time jobs, even if they're low paying ones. In fact, considering how academically unqualified and lacking in skills most men are for market rate employment, they will have to be low-wage jobs. So be it. A man who is too proud to learn a trade, work and support his family is a man who had no business getting married in the first place. The community is going to have to pull together to arrange and pay for job training for married men. Men who refuse such training (preferably on-the-job) and full time employment should be made ineligible for any charitable funds to accomplish what he is too lazy or too arrogant to do himself. This will be a painful transition for his wife and kids - I'm sorry about that, but it has to be that way.

And on a related note, business owners in the community are going to have to stop hiring arabs (Israel) or illegal latinos (America) or other goyim and insist on hiring and training married men within the community - and pay them reasonable wages for their skill level. That's the other side of the social contract and it cannot be overlooked. Both sides are guilty for creating the status quo - both sides will have to make sacrifices to fix this situation.

That or we can all starve - pick one.

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