President Obama and the Senate Democrats have made extending long-term unemployment spending the cornerstone of their agenda. However, for 10.4 million Americans who are out of work, extending these payouts does not solve the fundamental problem of finding a job.
Unemployment assistance is part of a safety net that can help individuals and families make ends meet while they look for a job, but it is not a permanent solution. Imagine a Midwestern family of four — two kids in school, with the primary breadwinner out of work and receiving an unemployment check of $300 a week. At $1,300 a month, this aid helps put food on the table and gas in the car. What these weekly checks don't provide, however, is what the family really needs: a steady job.
Recently, Democrats have leveled various ad hominem charges against the conservative approach to helping people find work. It is precisely because conservatives are committed to help the unemployed that we are trying to incentivize job creation and grow the economy.
Today, dozens of House-passed jobs bills remain sitting in the Democratic-run Senate awaiting action, including the "SKILLS Act", which helps long-term unemployed Americans get training often needed to re-enter the workforce. These House bills were passed with bipartisan support, yet the Senate Democrats remain fixated on extending emergency unemployment assistance, thus incentivizing a permanent class of unemployed Americans. Washington has lost its priorities if it is more focused on making unemployment easier to tolerate than creating jobs.
Another way the president and Congress can help Americans find work is to offer loan relocation programs to families who could not otherwise afford moving to another state for a new job. States with lower taxes and less regulation provide ample opportunities for employment and job creation. In contrast, states with high taxes, costly regulation and a high minimum wage are experiencing predictably high unemployment and economic decline.
The evidence shows that extending long-term unemployment insurance actually disincentives Americans from looking for work in states like North Dakota, Texas and Florida, where businesses are flourishing and jobs are more readily available. Encouraging mobility and migration for Americans are critical to reducing unemployment.
If the economy is to recover fully, the federal government should provide business owners incentives and the economic liberties to promote capital investment, risk taking and job creation. Extending so-called "emergency" long-term unemployment assistance for the sixth year in a row accomplishes neither.
Over the past five and a half years, this emergency spending has cost more ($265 billion) and added more to the debt ($210 billion) than any previous emergency program in our nation's history. While Democrats now want to borrow yet more money from China and other lenders to continue these emergency programs, nearly all unemployed workers are eligible to receive 26 weeks of regular aid as part of the traditional safety net.
Ultimately, a bill to extend emergency unemployment spending subsidizes ineffective state and local policies that have proven harmful to workers. In the meantime, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and the Senate Democrats should start to listen to their colleagues in the U.S. House of Representatives and at the very least support a loan relocation program to help the 10.4 million unemployed Americans find work in states that encourage job creation and economic liberty. Fixing the unemployment problem starts with innovative solutions that can get Americans back to work.