Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker sounds a reasonable note, as he does in so many policy debates, with regard to unemployment benefits. Politico recounts:
“Any discussion on this should be on what reforms can we make,” the Republican governor said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
Walker said the criteria for receiving the benefits need to be tightened, including requiring employment training.
“Whether it’s unemployment compensation or food stamps, we should require job training so that if a job becomes available, they’ve got their gear ready to get in the game.”
In this instance, lawmakers have to balance concern for the immediate well-being of those languishing in unemployment because of the Obama economy with a legitimate concern that unemployment benefits not become permanent. Walker, I think, addresses both these issues in a sound way. Frankly, if someone has been unemployed for more than six months, it is likely he or she needs assistance in some area, be it job training or interviewing skills. Rather than just pass such people a few dollars, state and federal governments should use the money already being paid out to encourage these people to improve their chances of working again.
This, by the way, is a perfect example of the conservative philosophy urged by Michael Gerson and Peter Wehner. “Moderation” does not mean extending the unemployment benefits 1 1/2 months rather than 3, and “conservatism” doesn’t entail abandoning those who’ve hit a rough patch. Instead, good governance shoould try to provide opportunity and support both the work ethic and private economic activity. Moreover, consistent with federalism and their superior services, state governments should take the lead, dependent upon economic circumstances in their states.
House Republicans should listen to Walker. The rest of the GOP should listen to him, too, not to the right-wing crowd (Heritage Action issues yet another “key vote,” warning that members must vote no or face its wrath.) This is one of many opportunities for the GOP to show what a conservative reform agenda looks like.