Monday, April 19, 2010

Letters to the editor

Wall Street Journal:

I've read some discompassionate pieces in my time but your editorial "Incentives Not to Work" (April 13) tops all. There are so many of us who are deserving of a good-paying job and have worked hard to gain real qualifications, but there aren't any jobs. I didn't put myself through college (while working in various manufacturing positions) in order to be a clerk at the convenience store or a greeter at Wal-Mart. With or without that unemployment check I'm still unemployed.

Just wait and see what happens when these benefits for us are all gone and our leaders have failed to "grow jobs." Maybe they should understand that they should have grown employers -- because they could not grow jobs. Why not just send all of us indolent slackers to labor camps? We aren't even close to being the drag on the economy that plenty of half-baked programs have been. Hope it doesn't happen to you.

Craig M. Kallenbach
Rockford, Ill.

I'm not a college grad and thus have not been a high-wage earner, but there are very few jobs available in my area that pay more than $8 to $10 an hour. I have two kids still at home and another that is unemployed. I make about $10 an hour in unemployment with no taxes taken out, and am barely making ends meet. Do you really think I should just jump for that $10-an-hour job and then wind up taking home less after taxes and travel? And then, because I'll have a history of earning lower wages, my unemployment benefit will be even less should I become unemployed again. To me this sounds like a recipe for giving my house back to the bank. I don't want to be permanently unemployed. I just want to earn a decent living, and if benefits can be extended a little longer, maybe I can get back into the work force at a wage comparable to what I was earning before losing my job. I think that most of the unemployed feel the same way.

Dan Hoffman
West Branch, Iowa

Your article quotes Lawrence Summers's explanation that unemployment insurance and other social insurance programs raise the reservation wage. Were it not for these programs, desperate workers would lower their reservation wage, and this would lead them to find employment faster. As a professor of economics, I taught this to my students for years. But for the past year, having found myself unemployed, I have learned that the logic of that statement is not always correct.

When I offered my services at a lower wage to prospective employers, I was told time and again that they were not interested. They said if they paid me less than I was worth, I would be unhappy, and therefore I would be unproductive. Moreover, they were concerned that I would leave their employ as soon as a better opportunity presented itself. This shows that employers do not necessarily react to lowered reservation wages. The implication that unemployment is the fault of the unemployed for not having lowered their reservation wage is wrong.

Joelle Saad-Lessler
Brooklyn, N.Y.

While conducting a job search made difficult by factors like my age (50) and lack of experience in other industries, I have been attending college at night and taking science classes that are required for a bachelor's degree in nursing and will apply for several, one-year accelerated programs that start in early 2011. My ultimate goal is to become a self-employed nurse practitioner.

Unfortunately, in fields like the one I was in, there will be very few opportunities over the next five years. However, to say that we have no incentive to find work is hardly accurate. I made close to three times what I am receiving in unemployment benefits. You think I wouldn't take a job where I could earn twice what I am receiving in unemployment benefits? I have a mortgage payment, bills and a retirement I'd like to save for. I'd take such a job in a heartbeat.

But the jobs are not out there like they once were, and I have to re-tool. For me, unemployment benefits have made the difference between barely staying afloat and filing for bankruptcy.

Scott Matthew Smith
Lakewood, Colo.


Anonymous said...

Hard times all around for sure, but I gotta say, it's almost (not quite, but almost) worth it to read the economic shaman's rude brush with reality. Larry Summers would benefit from that little sabbatical -- though too obtuse to draw certain straightforward conclusions....
-- sglover

Pat said...

Those are all lucky duckies! No taxes!

Enron said...

If he was in a legitimate profession Larry Summers would be unemployable.