Should federal unemployment benefits continue?
My take on the news
At first glance, most Rhode Islanders would say that the federal government should continue paying out unemployment benefits to those who are still out of work after exhausting the 26 weeks of state-provided unemployment benefits. Others will look at the tremendous cost and say perhaps not. Since the beginning of the recession, the federal government has passed out 255 billion taxpayer dollars to the long-term unemployed. In Rhode Island, such people can draw benefits for up to 73 weeks. That’s almost a year and a half!
Proponents of continuing benefits beyond the state’s 26 weeks offer the argument that it will help the economy since it will result in more money being spent. The counter to that argument is that the same money could be poured into schools and infrastructure, providing the same financial infusion into the economy.
Opponents claim that extending the benefits beyond 26 weeks encourages the unemployed to stay on the dole until they find a job equal to the one they lost. That forcing them to take jobs they find less desirable than their previous one will lower the unemployment rate. Most of us know at least one person who lost his or her job but took a lesser job rather than continue collecting unemployment. Opponents think all unemployed should do likewise.
When one looks at personal stories, it doesn’t help proponents of continuing long-term unemployment benefits when our statewide newspaper uses an example on its front page of a woman who has been out of work and collecting benefits for about a year and is upset that her benefits payments might stop. When her company, Cox Communications, decided to relocate her job to another state, she was offered another job in Rhode Island but she refused – choosing to take a severance payment and collect unemployment instead. Her husband works at Electric Boat and she is on his health insurance. The couple still has money in a savings account and they continue to provide financial assistance to their grown children. This example certainly is not the proverbial poster child for continuing to pour taxpayer dollars into the long-term unemployment program.
FUNG THUMBS HIS NOSE AT STATE POLICE: In yet another imprudent move, Mayor Allan Fung of Cranston has dismissed the idea that the state police should investigate the charge that Cranston police abused police power when they blanketed two political wards with tickets in apparent retaliation for two city councilors’ rejection of a police contract.
Instead, Mayor Fung has asked an independent professional investigator to review the report that will result from a Cranston police investigation into the allegations of police misconduct. The outside investigator will review the report to ensure the investigation was thorough and the facts support the conclusion.
So, what’s wrong with this situation? First, the investigation should not be conducted by the Cranston police. One of its senior leaders is accused of masterminding and directing the abuse of police power. Everyone knows that it is improper for an agency to investigate itself.
The Cranston police report of investigation will be just that – a report. The outside investigator who will review it will not have had the opportunity to sit across the table from patrol officers being interviewed to look them in the eyes when they are asked whether or not a senior police supervisor ordered them to issue tickets in retaliation for councilors’ votes. The outside investigator will not have interviewed the senior officer who may have ordered the abusive ticketing. In short, the outside investigator will not have conducted any part of the investigation. He will simply review a report that will be written to make the investigation look thorough whether it was or wasn’t.
The Rhode Island State Police has an impeccable record of unbiased impartiality in conducting investigations. It has conducted numerous investigations of local police conduct at the request of police chiefs and mayors. It would undoubtedly do a very credible job investigating alleged police wrongdoing in Cranston. Yet, instead of asking the state police to conduct the investigation, Mayor Fung apparently wants to dig the city of Cranston deeper and deeper into a situation that may result in Cranston’s citizens no longer trusting their police.
OBAMA ADMITS OBAMACARE A “HARDSHIP”: Still trying to combat the damage that his lie to the American people has caused him – the lie that “if you like your health care plan, you can keep it” – President Obama last week told insurance companies that, contrary to Obamacare rules, they must now sell new, low-cost, catastrophic insurance to Americans whose previous policies were cancelled because of Obamacare. The reason Obama gave: Making these people buy the policies mandated by Obamacare would cause them a “hardship.”
These are not poor folks. They’re not people who qualify for Medicaid. They’re not among those who are eligible for large tax subsidies. They are simply people who had policies they liked and who believed Obama’s lie that they could keep their policies. They can afford the ObamaCare-required policies, yet the president says to force them to buy the policies would be a hardship.
It’s nice that these folks can now buy policies somewhat similar and only a bit costlier than the ones Obamacare cancelled. However, by saying that middle- and above middle-income people will suffer a “hardship” by purchasing ObamaCare-required insurance is a tacit admission that the entire Obamacare program is a hardship. If it’s a hardship for some who can afford it, then it’s a hardship for all who can afford it. To contend otherwise, as Obama is doing, constitutes yet another Obama lie; this one is simply disguised as corrective action to fix a previous lie.
TAVERAS WILL LOSE VOTES OVER EMINENT DOMAIN ISSUE: The Providence Redevelopment Agency and Mayor Angel Taveras have indicated interest in “taking” (read that as “stealing”) the former South Street Power Station through eminent domain because it is taking too long to develop the public-private partnership plan that would combine entities from Brown, RIC, URI and commercial companies. The redevelopment agency is calling the property “blighted” and under a “diversity of ownership” and, thus, is qualified for taking under eminent domain.
Taveras had better watch what he does in the eminent domain area! Independents, conservatives and many Democrats see the exercise of eminent domain by government in order to shift property from one private owner to another as government overreach bordering on socialism. Eminent domain was designed to clear the way for roads, schools, bridges and other public-use facilities, not for taking property from one private owner to give to another private owners. If Taveras and his redevelopment agency go forth with this “theft” of property, Taveras will lose tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands of votes when he runs for governor.
TOP NEWS STORY OF THE YEAR: An Associated Press poll of the nation’s news editors and directors determined the biggest story of 2013 was the abysmal rollout of Obamacare. The health care program’s totally inept implementation was so distasteful to news editors that it ranked equal to last year’s top story – the tragic massacre of children at a Newtown, Conn. school. With Obamacare’s continuing problems and those projected to rise to the surface in 2014, Obamacare may well be next year’s biggest story, also.
THE NSA & EDWARD SNOWDEN SAGA CONTINUES: Following a federal judge’s ruling two weeks ago that the NSA’s blanket spying on America’s phone records is unconstitutional, another federal judge ruled last week that it is constitutional. Thus, the issue will almost surely go to the U.S. Supreme Court for a final decision. In the meantime, Edward Snowden, former NSA intelligence analyst and NSA enemy number one, speaking on British national television last week, had this to say: “A child born today will grow up with no conception of privacy at all. And that’s a problem because privacy matters, privacy is what allows us to determine who we are and who we want to be.” Whether traitor or hero, Snowden is 100 percent right!
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: While President Obama enjoys a two-week vacation in Hawaii, the discussion about the nation’s economy continues. On last Friday’s edition of National Public Radio’s “Marketplace,” two hosts were discussing the nation’s economy. One mentioned President Obama’s recent prediction that 2014 would be a “breakthrough year for America,” and asked the other host, “John, what does President Obama need to do to help make this breakthrough happen?” Without a pause, the other host replied, “Stay in Hawaii!”