Guest Column

February 16, 2014

Programs may be obstacles to work

The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) recently editorialized about what happened to North Carolina’s unemployment rate subsequent to the state legislature’s decision in July not to extend stare unemployment benefits.

In reading articles from North Carolina’s newspapers, the legislature’s decision was going to bring down upon the state’s unemployed catastrophes not witnessed since the seven plagues that befell Egypt.

If going back to work is a catastrophe, then the naysayers were correct. Since July, North Carolina’s unemployment dropped from 8.9 to 6.9 percent. Prior to making the decision not to extend unemployment benefits, North Carolina had one of the nation’s highest unemployment rates.

When I worked for the North Country Workforce Investment Board, the OneWorkSource on the U.S. Oval was never as crowded with people looking for work than in the 30 days before unemployment benefits were going to expire. The day after Congress extended the benefits, the waiting room was all but empty.

I wonder why?

I found the editorial interesting because I had just read several articles on 2014 being the 50th anniversary of the beginning of President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty.

America’s been fighting poverty for 50 years.

The result, 50 years and an estimated $20 trillion later, poverty in America has actually increased. It’s estimated that 50 million people in America live in poverty.

How can that be?

There are those, and count me among them, who believe that America has replaced a path to employment with a path to dependency. Personally, I don’t believe that most Americans want to be on the dole. Safety-net programs, many of which President Johnson created as part of his War on Poverty, were meant to be exactly that, a safety net to provide a person or family temporary assistance as they worked to better their lives, temporary being the operative word.

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