Unemployment Insurance

Unemployment Insurance

Unemployment insurance was a critical part of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal, a lifesaver during a period defined by economic volatility, depressed wages, and record unemployment.  Beginning in 1935 with the Social Security Act, short-term relief was provided for the unemployed to provide for their basic subsistence and maintain their purchasing power. Unemployment insurance generally lasts up to 26 weeks, although in the wake of the Great Recession the Obama Administation extended benefits to 99 weeks.

Cry Wolf Quotes

[The bill] tends to retard the increase of pay rolls, because of the absorption of this amount of money for taxation purposes; it retards the increase of employment also. It is a permanent tax, with no limit, regardless of economic conditions in general or of the individual company. In other words, it may be the last straw, as I said before, that puts this company over the line into bankruptcy.

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Frank H. Willard, Worcester, MA, President, Graton & Knight Manufacturing Co., Testimony, House Committee on Ways and Means.
03/21/1934 | Full Details | Law(s): Unemployment Insurance

…no matter who pays the unemployment insurance bill in the first instance, it comes out of money available for wages and so is all paid by the workers in the long run. But like other indirect taxes, those who bear the burden do not realize in under such a scheme as the Wagner-Lewis bill proposes. If they did, they would be careful how it was spent and would raise objections if slackers and chiselers attempted to love off it. If they thought it was being paid by employers and by the State, many would be tempted to join the slacker and chiseler class. Any bill which purports to lay the whole burden on management (although it cannot be done) is doubly vicious in tendency.

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Editorial, Los Angeles Times.
04/03/1934 | Full Details | Law(s): Unemployment Insurance

…finally, it is paternalistic and incompatible with our fundamental conception of democracy.

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James L. Donnelly on Behalf of the Illinois Manufacturers Association, Testimony, House Committee on Ways and Means.
03/21/1934 | Full Details | Law(s): Unemployment Insurance

There is probably no greater need at the present time than for opportunity of employment. Through a long period in our country both law and public opinion reflected the universal approval and the good will felt toward those capable of giving employment to men and women who needed jobs. Yet, the imposition of this tax would be a complete reversal of that attitude. It would indicate either that employment is held undesirable and should be discouraged, or else it could properly be considered as an attempt to penalize unemployment.

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Merwin K. Hary, New York, NY, President, New York State Economic Council, Testimony, House Committee on Ways and Means.
03/21/1934 | Full Details | Law(s): Unemployment Insurance

Evidence

Backgrounders & Briefs

Unemployment Policy Brief: Shermer

By Elizabeth Tandy Shermer, PhD, February 2010

Unemployment insurance benefits – including  their length, eligibility, and expense – are again in the spotlight.  The arguments are hardly new.