Long-Term Jobless Benefits Succumb to ‘Mission Drift’

December 16, 2013 - 6:55 AM

Douglas Holtz-Eakin

Former CBO Director Douglas Holtz-Eakin (AP File Photo)

(CNSNews.com) - Extending long-term unemployment benefits is a “big deal” for people who depend on them, but “it’s not that big a deal for the economy,” said Douglas Holtz-Eakin, former director of the Congressional Budget Office during the George W. Bush administration.

Long-term unemployment insurance was intended to tide people over when they’re between jobs, but it “is now trying to be all things to everybody,” he told CNN’s “State of the Union with Candy Crowley” on Sunday.

“This is mission drift. We have a big problem with (job) training. We have a big problem with unemployment. We need programs that match those problems.”

Holtz-Eakin said the economy is not growing fast enough. “We still have to grow much faster, take all the workers who've given up, all the workers who've been long-term unemployed and get them back to work. That's the top priority.”

But Peter Orszag, former CBO director and Office of Management and Budget director under President Barack Obama, said with unemployment “still really elevated,” the nation needs to extend those long-term unemployment benefits.

“I mean, the point is, we have always extended these benefits when unemployment is really elevated," he told CNN's "State of the Union.'"

Orszag said extending unemployment benefits stimulates demand, and is “one of the most effective ways of getting money into the economy quickly.”

He called it “unfortunate” that Congress has not extended the program.

Orszag predicted that the economy will continue to improve next year: “2014, I think, is likely for the first time in several years to be materially not as strong as we'd like but better than 2013.”