No benefits for the rich

Jacqueline Chapman (C) of Philadelphia holds a poster during a news conference January 8, 2014 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. 

Today the Senate will vote on a bill to extend long-term unemployment benefits for 1.7 Million Americans. The proposal would exclude one group – people making incomes over $1 Million.

After all, if you’re a millionaire, maybe you don’t need a safety net funded by tax payers.

“It is the kind of thing that I think government should be doing more of. Which is saying, who really needs that safety net and who doesn’t,” says economist Michael Strain with the American Enterprise Institute.

But would the exclusion save the government money?

“The millionaires exclusion is a solution in search of a problem,” says Judy Conti, a federal advocacy coordinator with the National Employment Law Project.

In 2009, millionaires collected $20 million in unemployment benefits. “That was only 18-one-hundredths of a percent of the total outlay of unemployment benefits for that entire year,” says Conti.

Also, excluding the rich wouldn’t be free. States would have to set-up new systems to measure income.

“There is an associated cost. And they wouldn’t get additional money to administer this test,” says Rich Hobbie, executive director of the National Association of State Workforce Agencies.

He says states would be forced to spend scarce resources in order to deny benefits to millionaires.

About the author

Jeff Tyler is a reporter for Marketplace’s Los Angeles bureau, where he reports on issues related to immigration and Latin America.

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