Freedom, by @DavidOAtkins


by David Atkins

I'm sure this will help:

The chronically unemployed in California will lose federal jobless extension benefits Saturday, and Steven Salinas is acutely aware of it.

"That's going to force even more people to get out there and look for work," he said, taking a minute to talk Thursday at the West Oxnard Job & Career Center.

Of the 93,000 Californians who will be affected, an estimated 2,011 are Ventura County residents, according to the state Employment Development Department. An estimated 22,372 of those affected live in Los Angeles County.

Since March 2009, up to 20 weeks of additional benefits have gone to 912,445 long-term unemployed Californians through the extension program that ends Saturday.

California's unemployment rate, while still high at 11 percent, is not as extraordinarily and consistently high as it was three years ago, so the long-term unemployed no longer qualify for federal emergency unemployment benefits known as Fed-Ed.

"The Fed-Ed program is designed to end once a state's economy starts to significantly improve," said Employment Development Department Director Pam Harris. "Still, we know this is hard on our clients. We're doing everything we can to get word out so they can plan accordingly."

Salinas exhausted his extension benefits in October, so he's already on his own and leans on family to stay afloat. He has spent the past three years searching for a job, having last worked full time for a cable TV company, where he ran public access stations in Oxnard, Ojai and Westlake.

The good news is he had a job interview Thursday with a communications and technology company, and he remains upbeat, despite his predicament. Still, the 54-year-old is not looking forward to more competition from people losing their extension benefits Saturday.

"I think my age kind of scares some employers," he said.

Age can indeed hamper one's ability to rapidly find work. Older workers are much more likely to remain unemployed long-term, according to a recent study by Pew Fiscal Analysis Initiative. While workers older than 55 are less likely to lose their jobs, if they do, they have a more difficult time re-entering the workforce.

Americans who have been out of work for a year or more made up about 29.5 percent of the nearly 13.3 million people out of work during the first quarter of the year, according to the study. That translates into 3.9 million workers, or slightly more than Oregon's population. The percentage of jobless workers unemployed for more than a year peaked at 31.8 percent in the third quarter of 2011.
Not mentioned is the fact that adding 93,000 desperate people, most of whom can't get work not because they're lazy but because they haven't been able to find a decent job, to the workforce creates an even stronger market for employers, which in turn increases job insecurity for the currently employed and depresses wages. In short, the entire workforce will be more constrained, more stressed out, lower paid and less free.

But it's really important that we cut these "looters" off at the knees so that we don't go further into debt. And heaven forbid we tax "productive" people like the geniuses at JPMorgan. For freedom.