Recently the New York Times editorialized against Governors Bobby Jindal and Rick Perry for threatening to reject federal stimulus money tied to unemployment insurance. The editorial overlooks a number of key issues.
First, the governors are chided for “putting ideology ahead of the needs of their constituents.” The assumption seems to be that everyone in Louisiana (and Texas) stands to gain from expanding eligibility requirements. But many in the business community, including the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, have spoken out against changing the eligibility requirements. So apparently Gov. Jindal’s constituents do not all have the same needs.
This being the case, the legislature is where competing constituencies bring their differing needs to achieve some kind of resolution. The existing unemployment eligibility requirements have been established in a deliberative manner and should not be altered simply because the federal government is offering temporary funding.
The editorial also fails to address the political reality that it is easy to create an entitlement but hard to eliminate one. States may technically be “free to revert” to the old unemployment laws but will elected officials really have the stomach to contract eligibility requirements after they have been in place for two years?
Finally, the description of stimulus money as a “lifeline for pulling their states and the country out of desperation” rings false, at least in Louisiana. The unemployment rate in Louisiana stood at 5.7% in February, considerably lower than the national average of 8.1%. The NY Times might have addressed this, but why let facts get in the way of ideology?