Social Question

Imadethisupwithnoforethought's avatar

Why do people think of Unemployment Insurance as a social benefit rather than insurance they have paid for?

Asked by Imadethisupwithnoforethought (14664points) September 26th, 2012

At least in the United States, employers pay for unemployment checks by a tax for each employee they have. That tax has always been assumed to be passed on to employees by a hidden, invisible, reduction in wages.

Why do people describe unemployment benefits as a social program? Why do they seem ashamed of taking benefits when they have paid into the fund for their entire working lives?

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16 Answers

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

Back up the bus. Unemployment is totally employer funded. They may not be able to pay as much, but the employer has to pay minimum wage at least.

woodcutter's avatar

Nobody feels good about being unemployed.

Imadethisupwithnoforethought's avatar

@Adirondackwannabe I did not say it was not employer funded. But it is part of the cost of having an employee. A minimum wage component, even if hidden. And you don’t have an employee if he does not add to profit in some way.

chyna's avatar

After 30 years at the same company, I was laid off due to outsourcing my job to Wisconsin which then got outsourced to China recently. I was embarrassed to be on unemployment because I had worked my entire life and taken care of myself with no assistance from anyone. I can’t answer the question really, but I felt like I was taking hand outs when I knew I was capable of working and making a good living, but I just couldn’t find a job.

Imadethisupwithnoforethought's avatar

@chyna I am just struggling with people like you who feel bad about it. You paid for it. You were in effect just getting a refund.

JLeslie's avatar

I think of it as something we pay into. Just like social security and medicare. That is why whenever I hear stats I ask specifically what they are counting as social benefits. To me Medicaid, EIC, and other public programs that help the poor are different than programs we all benefit from, and as you say, we all pay into for ourselves.

chyna's avatar

@Imadethisupwithnoforethought I still can’t look at it in that manner. I feel like I’m mooching and that I should have found a job long before I actually did. I do feel fortunate that I was unemployed at the time my mom was her sickest and eventually passed and I was able to be with her though. I’m still embarrassed I had to take assistance to live and pay my house payments.

wundayatta's avatar

My father said it was a shame to take unemployment insurance benefits. My mother said it was a benefit I had paid for. I was on unemployment three times in my life, and I took it without guilt.

My father’s attitude came from his parents. They always called Roosevelt “That Man,” like he was the worst President ever. They lost everything in the depression, and I guess they were proud that they never took a dime from the government. They made it back, on their own.

So that’s one thing. It’s a government program, and thus gets conflated with other government programs that are seen as handouts. Few people really understand insurance, nor do they know how UI works. So I guess it’s easy for people to see it as a government handout.

Another thing is hatred for government. Or at least disapproval of the public sector. For some, it is axiomatic that the government can’t do anything well. The government is inefficient by definition. So UI is a government program and is seen as inefficient, simply because of that. Therefore if it is giving out money, it can’t be fully funded, and therefore it is at least partially a handout. Or a social benefit.

Over time, UI is supposed to be fully funded. But there will be times when it is under funded and the rest of benefits are paid for through other taxes. At that moment, it is a handout, in one way of looking at it, and that might be why people think of it as a social benefit.

Imadethisupwithnoforethought's avatar

@chyna I get it feels like mooching. I am just wondering why. Is it because we never talk about the fact that we self fund our own UI as we work, and then beat up people in the media. Because I bet you paid in more than you took over 30 years.

chyna's avatar

I think that I don’t want any help from anyone. So when I had to ask for help, I felt demeaned. I actually had panic attacks over taking it. I don’t think I’m too good to be on public assistance, I think I should be working.

Imadethisupwithnoforethought's avatar

@chyna totally following you. But I am wondering when, it became in people’s mind, PUBLIC ASSISTANCE.

You don’t feel bad using medical insurance or car insurance.

woodcutter's avatar

I always liked unemployment, much like I always liked hospital food. No shit I really looked forward to meals when I was there:) It bought me some time so I could get back into it. It’s been ages since I have been on it but I remember what a PITA it was going to the office and waiting in lines. It was always an all day affair. I hear they do things differently now.

chyna's avatar

In my mind, it has always been public assistance. And that is not a bad thing at all. It is just something I never thought I would have to depend on to help me live and pay my bills, which aren’t much.

Adagio's avatar

One pays tax for years, why then should one feel bad about claiming financial assistance when it is needed, I see it as an entitlement, not something to be ashamed of or hold against others.

CWOTUS's avatar

It’s generally referred to as unemployment “insurance” to make it palatable to those who do not want to fund or receive “public assistance” ... which it surely is.

woodcutter's avatar

Well a bad economy cannot be laid at the feet of the average worker. The blame, if any, is on these people who make shit tons of money then fuck things up by making bad decisions that affect us all negatively. Without this “insurance” there would be a social disaster landscape with homes , cars and whatever been repossessed which would then make life hell for the big players.Trickle up doom. It’s a bad idea to just let people twist in the wind and call it tough love. It’s a shame these conservatives think that the jobless are somehow “sticking it to the man”. Yeah, we like surviving on 250 a week.

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