Timothy Noah notices some unpleasant provisions tucked away in the House GOP’s proposed unemployment insurance reforms:
The GOP-sponsored House bill (text) reforms [unemployment insurance] by 1.) loosening requirements on how states spend federal unemployment funds, which flow through them; 2.) tightening the requirement that all benefit recipients look for work (mandatory job interviews, etc.); 3.) allowing states to require recipients to pass a drug test; and, 4.) if you lack a high school diploma or GED, enrolling in a GED program (”and making satisfactory progress in classes”). These last two interest me most, but especially the GED requirement.
Requiring a drug test establishes that if you are collecting unemployment you are probably a disreputable character. It’s repellant, but not particularly novel. ... Many who are required to do it will have experienced this ritual humiliation before, and be relatively inured to it.
The GED requirement, on the other hand, is a new way to communicate that if you lack a job you must be in some way deficient. Now don’t get me wrong. I’m as concerned as the next guy about the fact that the high school graduation rate hasn’t increased in decades. If you don’t have a high school diploma, or a GED, you’re going to have a very difficult time getting a job.
But someone on unemployment who lacks either of these things managed to get a job in spite of this handicap — otherwise he or she wouldn’t be on unemployment. To require this person to enroll in a GED program as a condition of collecting benefits is in essence to say that you had no business being in the labor force to begin with. I can imagine that it might pose all sorts of practical problems simultaneously to start a GED program, look for a job, and jump through all the other hoops you need to to shake your unemployment check free from the state bureaucracy. Wouldn’t it make more sense to focus on getting yourself a job, and then enroll, if circumstances allow, in a GED program?
Mark Schmitt has more. Just to be clear, this is just the House GOP’s proposal. It has not passed the Senate, much less been signed into law by the president.