The Value Of Extending Unemployment Benefits

Guests

Andrew Stettner, deputy director, National Employment Law Project
Jeffrey Miron, director of undergraduate studies, Harvard University

Following passage by the House, the unemployment extension bill will bring some relief to those whose benefits ran out in June. Critics say the extension encourages people to game the system. Others believe the money should be spent on a stimulus while the economy is still trying to recover and jobs are scarce.

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NEAL CONAN, host:

This is TALK OF THE NATION. Im Neal Conan in Washington.

Almost half a million people filed new claims on jobless benefits last week, and joined the many millions on unemployment. Through this recession, Congress has approved benefit extensions from time to time, the most recent and the most controversial, just a few minutes ago.

Part of the argument was over the source of the funding, borrowing or from spending cuts, but some critics also argue that extensions run on too long already and encourage people to game the system.

Proponents say the extension bill is a badly needed stimulus that also helps people out of work get by when there are few jobs to be found out there.

Today, jobless benefits - how long is too long? Later in the hour, our summer movie festival continues with pep talks. Send your favorite morale-booster by email you can do it. The address is talk@npr.org.

First, though, jobless benefits, and we want to hear today from unemployment counselors. How long is too long? Do people game the system? Our phone number is 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. You can also join the conversation on our website. Thats at npr.org. Click on TALK OF THE NATION.

And we begin with Andrew Stettner, deputy director at the National Employment Law Project, and he joins us from our bureau in New York. Nice to have you with us today.

Mr. ANDREW STETTNER (Deputy Director, National Employment Law Project): Good afternoon.

CONAN: And these benefits are intended to be temporary. People out of work, through no fault of their own, have a little cushion so they can find a new job. How long is temporary?

Mr. STETTNER: The current program is up to 99 weeks of benefits in the highest unemployment state, but it depends on your state's unemployment rate. The benefits could be are as low as 60 weeks in the lower unemployment states.

CONAN: Yet back in the day, they were 26 weeks, and then during recessions, extended, I think, beyond that. How long is long enough?

Mr. STETTNER: Well, we need extended unemployment benefits until jobs come back. You know, there are more than five jobless workers for every job opening. The unemployment rate is as high as it's been, in this country, except for one other year in the post-war period. So it's an unprecedented situation we have.

And these unemployment benefits that are they are helping the economy. They're helping to save jobs.

CONAN: They also cost a lot of money.

Mr. STETTNER: It's you know, I think it's you know, all economists have said this is one of the best and most reliable ways that we can stimulate the economy. You know, this is money that goes straight to the butcher, baker and candlestick maker.

An unemployment check goes right into a jobless worker's hands, who spends it in local businesses. And that's what companies are hurting for, right now, is demand; and these are their customers who have lost their job through no fault of their own, and are you know, I've talked to hundreds of jobless workers who are searching for work every day - scores, if not hundreds, if not thousands of job applications - and very rarely even getting interviews.

Just companies aren't hiring. So the problem, really, here, that we face is, you know, companies are making good money, but they're worried about the future so they're not hiring.

So, you know, it's America, it's a capitalist system. You know, we can't legislate that companies have to hire more people. But we can do, is provide a robust safety net when companies aren't hiring.

CONAN: And if the unemployment rate remains high for another two years, should unemployment be extended to it's now 99 weeks, which is almost two years - to two and a half years, three years?

Mr. STETTNER: You know, the current is to clarify, because there's some confusion. The extension that passed today really just made the same package of 99 weeks of benefits available to those who have laid - were who have not accessed their full benefits.

You know, there's I don't have firm estimates, but there's definitely hundreds of thousands of jobless workers who have already received 99 weeks of benefits and aren't benefiting from this program.

You know, we can't, you know, forget those who, you know, have lost jobs. Because the problem here, right now, is, you know, there are not the private sector hiring that's going on.

And, you know, President Roosevelt put in the program of last resort, and he told Harry Hopkins the goal of it was to get people working, not to make the most perfect projects. And we haven't had that kind of commitment. And so in the absence of that, unemployment benefits are the best thing that we can do.

CONAN: Also with us is Jeffrey Miron. He's director of undergraduate studies at Harvard Department of Economics, and joins us from Holyoke Center at Harvard. Nice to have you with us today.

Mr. JEFFREY MIRON (Director of Undergraduate Studies, Department of Economics, Harvard University): Thanks for having me.

CONAN: And how long should temporary jobless benefits last?

Mr. MIRON: Well, there's no easy way to say exactly how long is temporary. My own instinct is that, sort of the six months to a year is probably sufficient. But I think what's more important to emphasize is that we should think about that from the perspective of what do we think is the right amount of compassion, of generosity.

We shouldn't be thinking so much that this is going to cure the recession, that this is going to stimulate a lot. It's a small amount of money. So that means that the effect on the deficit is also very small. People have exaggerated that. But it also means the degree to which it's stimulating is very, very small, as well.

The negative is it does create an incentive for people not to take jobs, for them not to, in particular, lower their wage demands - to be willing to take jobs that they don't necessarily want, which aren't as good as their previous jobs but would provide some level of employment.

And there's evidence that supports that, and it's also common sense.

CONAN: Evidence? What kind of evidence? I've heard anecdotal stories, people...

Mr. MIRON: Oh no - there are analyses done by economists, going back, you know, a couple decades, in which they document that the rate of job-leaving is very, very high when people are in their last week or two of eligibility for their unemployment. For people who are eligible for 26 weeks, you see high exit rates out of unemployment in weeks 24, 25, 26. For people who are eligible 52, high exit rates then.

So there's more than just anecdotes. There's certainly some systematic stuff published in journals.

CONAN: So at some point people, well, if they've got the benefits available, take advantage of it.

Mr. MIRON: They do, and I don't think we should refer to that as gaming the system or be casting aspersions on the people who are doing that. They're doing the intelligent thing. They're responding to incentives that are created.

But it's appropriate for policymakers, for society, to say do we want to create that incentive, and to what degree do we want to create that incentive?

Obviously, doing a little bit to provide the safety net is reasonable, but doing it extensively, at some point, generates a large number of people who stay unemployed for a long time, and that's not in anybody's interest.

CONAN: Andrew Stettner, let me ask you just some basic questions about how unemployment insurance works. Who pays for it initially? Isn't it employers?

Mr. STETTNER: Well, I just want to step back, just to comment on your other guest's comments. You know, there certainly is some research on this incentive effect, but to stop people from taking jobs, there has to be jobs.

So really, I just don't think the argument holds water. And Alan Greenspan, you know, in 2003, when the economy wasn't this bad, said, you know, that he understood that there was that research, but that research about extending unemployment benefits doesn't apply, you know, during periods of high unemployment. And he's no he's no rabid liberal.

You know, so it's at this time, you know, I don't think the argument that unemployment insurance is holding back people from going back to work, holds much water.

Remember, these benefits are about $310 per week, and the average job in the country pays almost triple that much. So really, if there are jobs to be had, people would have them.

Mr. MIRON: Can I respond to that?

CONAN: Go ahead.

Mr. MIRON: The five-to-one number comes up over and over and over again. I'm not disputing that number, but I think it's important to think about the interpretation.

It's not useful to say, are there jobs at the wages I was getting before. The question is: could people find new employment if they were willing to lower their wage demands? That, unfortunately, is what many people need to do because their skills may no longer may not be as much in demand, or the parts of the country in which they're living are not the more quickly growing parts of the country. There needs to be wage adjustment.

Imagine that, people have been laid off, from, say, $50,000-a-year jobs go back to their employers or other employers and say I'll do that same job for $25,000. My strong view is that lots of more jobs would occur that way, okay, if people lowered their wage demands.

But people don't want to do that, perfectly understandably, but that's not the question for policy, is would it be efficient to get people working somewhat, getting them back in jobs, even at lower wages, rather than staying unemployed, which is what the incentives are now.

CONAN: All right. Let's see if we can get some callers in on the conversation. We'd especially like to hear from those of you who work with the unemployed -people who are counselors at unemployment offices - 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. But we want to hear stories of people who are on unemployment, as well, and let's go first to this is Tracy(ph), Tracy with us from St. Louis.

TRACY (Caller): Hi, thank you. This is you know, I was just listening to your panelists, and I'm just letting you know, not only am I unemployed since November, 2008, I have a 19-year-old daughter who's been trying to get into the workforce for the past two years in addition to going to college full time.

And to say that we're not willing to take certain positions: you're right, I'm not willing to take certain positions, but the suggestion that I take a position from a salary of, like, half of what I was making previously, is only going to add to the deflation pressures that we have in our economy right now.

I am very willing to work. Instead, right now, I've been offered to go to school full time. I'm a veteran of the United States Air Force, and I'm able to take care of myself by going to school right now, and I'm going to try to improve my school situation, my future situation, that way.

But I have still been looking for a position. I am currently looking more and more at civil service positions, instead of in the private sector because the private sector really is not hiring in my area.

CONAN: Well, Jeffrey Miron, I think her comments were directed to you.

Mr. MIRON: Yes, so, I mean, this caller seems to making a totally rational, sensible decision, given her circumstance. If she's able to support herself now without being willing to without lowering her wage demands and is getting additional training, then that's great. That's exactly what she should do.

But there are other people who are not in that position. There are other people who don't have those choices. There was a caller on a different radio program I did a few days ago, who talked about how hard she was trying to find new jobs. And somebody called in and said, well, have you tried accepting a job at McDonald's? And her response was: I wouldn't lower myself to work at McDonald's.

But that's fine. That's her choice. No one should make her take that job. But the point is, there is some level of choice. There is a question of what level of wages you will accept to get a job, not just whether jobs are there.

CONAN: Tracy, you were going to say, I'm sorry?

TRACY: I certainly wouldn't accept a position that's going to pay me less than my unemployment wages are paying me. That would be very foolish on my part, as well, which is a big issue that we're dealing with here.

Mr. MIRON: That's right, but that...

TRACY: You're saying that oh, McDonald's - yeah, McDonald's has positions open, but they pay less than what my unemployment insurance...

CONAN: I think he was not talking about you, specifically, Tracy, I think he was talking about this other person, and...

TRACY: I realize that, but that's not I'm not the only position, and she's not the only (technical difficulties). So I resent the fact that you just feel we should take any position, whatsoever. But if it pays less than my unemployment benefit, that certainly wouldn't make any sense.

CONAN: I'm not sure... Tracy, I can understand your resentment, but I don't believe that that's what Jeffrey was saying. But thank you very much for the call, and we wish you good luck finding a job soon, and if not, at school.

In the meantime, we'd like to hear your calls, as well, 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. We're looking at unemployment benefits this hour. If you work as an unemployment counselor, how long is too long? Stay with us. I'm Neal Conan. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington.

Yesterday the Senate approved the hotly debated extension of unemployment benefits for the 2.5 million people whose benefits ran out back in June. The House voted to approve that measure today.

We're talking about what those benefits mean to the people who have been unable to find work, in some cases for up to 99 weeks, and we want to hear from you.

If you're an unemployment counselor, how long is too long? Do people take advantage of the system? 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. You can also join the conversation on our website. That's at npr.org. Click on TALK OF THE NATION.

Our guests are Andrew Stettner, deputy director of the National Employment Law Project, he's with us from our bureau in New York; and Jeffrey Miron, director of undergraduate studies at Harvard University's Department of Economics, with us from Holyoke Center at Harvard University.

And let's see if we can get another caller on the line. Let's go to Candace(ph), Candace with us from Grand Rapids.

CANDACE (Caller): Greetings, how are you?

CONAN: I'm well, thank you.

CANDACE: I'm calling because of some of the comments made by your guests. I've been unemployed now for 18 months, and I am literally on the road back, driving back from Cincinnati, Ohio. I have been looking in other states, I'm so desperate.

Work that I've been doing for 20 years, they're now requiring a bachelor's degree. It's absurd. I can't even find a job for $9 an hour. I'm not even getting interviews anymore.

So what I've gotten to do is being very creative and start, you know, calling on contacts literally around the country. If it were not for the unemployment benefit extensions, I would be on the street already. I would have lost my house, which I'm sure would not help the economy.

CONAN: Andrew Stettner, Michigan is one of those high jobless rates, maybe the highest jobless rates.

CANDACE: It's horrendous. It's absolutely horrendous, and it's a desperate situation.

Mr. STETTNER: So yeah, I guess, you know, I think Jeffrey's perspective works in the classrooms, in Harvard, but I don't think it works in towns like Worchester, Massachusetts, or Canton, Michigan, or Fort Myers, Florida.

You know, we're going through a depression here, folks. The unemployment rate in Nevada is over - nearly 14 percent, same in Michigan. We've had more than two straight years of job losses. And, you know, communities are holding on by a thread, and unemployment benefits is that thread that's holding, you know, them on. And so, you know, it is at our peril that we would have cut off unemployment benefits.

Just to give you an example, you mentioned 26 weeks, we haven't had 26 weeks at a time when the unemployment rate has been this high in the 75-year history of the program.

The, you know, unemployment benefits extensions usually get cut off when the unemployment rate is seven percent, something on those lines. It would be an unprecedented for Congress's decision to hold because all of the extended benefits were starting to be cut off.

People that ran out at six months of benefits were not going to get one week of an extension.

CONAN: Jeffrey Miron, are these only academic theories you're talking about?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. MIRON: I don't think so. But let's think about the question not of whether the unemployment rate is high or whether it's compassionate to (unintelligible) unemployment insurance benefits. And nobody is arguing about whether there should be some benefits for some period. The question is exactly how long.

But it's not at all obvious that it's helping with the recession. The benefits that are paid don't come out of thin air. They're not just magically dollars that appear to get to pay unemployment insurance benefits. They come from taxes. Whether we call it coming out of the stimulus funds already allocated or we call it sort of new expenditure, it still has to be paid for with taxes.

If giving the unemployed more cash so they can spend it on food, shelter, et cetera, is going to stimulate consumption, then asking other people to pay more taxes so they have less disposable income is going to reduce consumption.

Now, the claim is that somehow, those taxes happen in the future, and the benefit, the actual consumption from the unemployed, happens now. That's not at all obvious that that's the way it works. But at a minimum, we're not creating something out of nothing. We're at best shifting the time of the consumption around and not necessarily reducing the length or severity of the recession.

So the argument for the unemployment insurance benefits really is about the compassion. It's not that it's going to do much to reduce the recession, if anything.

Mr. STETTNER: Now, I have to disagree with that. Lawrence Shimmering(ph), a Harvard economist, used the Wharton forecasting model and showed that unemployment benefits extensions had shortened the length of extensions and the amount of layoffs.

You know, this is an investment in the future of our economy. If you believe in the productivity of the American workforce, which is very good still, and believe that individuals like your last two callers, will get back to work and will start paying taxes, you are willing to make this investment.

And the markets seem to agree with that investment, too. People are still flocking to Treasury bonds, and the interest rates are low. That's because people believe in the country, and it's worked for us.

And I think that's why when we do polling, we show that, you know, at this point, you know, there's still 60, 70 percent support for unemployment extensions because people recognize that we need this, that we need this as a bridge, that we will get to a better point. There is going to be a better day in this country.

CONAN: Candace, thanks very much, and good luck to you.

CANDACE: Thank you.

CONAN: Bye-bye. Here's an email, both involved these are two emails that involve the same age group, from Karen, age 60-plus: Many of those who have been laid off are middle-aged. With ageism in this country, what will happen to them when unemployment ends, and they are too old to be hired?

And this from Beverly(ph) in San Leandro: I'd like to hear the experts talk about the breakdown of the unemployment figures. I understand there are a higher percentage of unemployed persons in my age group, 50-plus. I think a different approach might be taken by the unemployment office and private-public sector to folks like me. I don't feel this has happened. For example, there could be specific monetary support for entrepreneurial ideas of the over 50.

Jeffrey Miron, do the statistics break down as I'd always thought that the highest unemployment rate was among the youngest people.

Mr. MIRON: It's certainly true on average. I think it's true that there has been a spread of the unemployment into older age groups in this recession, partly just because it's gotten so much higher.

The answer to the question of what happens to people who are mid-career, what happens to the caller who said that a BA is now required for the occupation that she was in, part of what's going on in any recession but of course is going on all the time is there are changes in what the economy wants.

There are increased requirements to do certain jobs. Some products become more popular, others less popular. There are always shifts across sectors, and those get exacerbated. A lot of that happens during recessions.

So it is not going to be efficient set aside the compassion for a second for everybody to be able to do the same job they were doing. Some people are going to end up basically not having much demand, even when the economy recovers, for the skill that they happen to have.

For some people, that's very hard. That's why we have a social safety net that goes beyond unemployment insurance. That's why we have Social Security and disability and so on. But it is not necessarily right to keep sort of paying benefits for an extended period because you're not really treating the issue. The ultimate issue is there's been a change in the demand for different types of labor in the economy.

CONAN: Let's go next to Kim(ph), Kim with us from Detroit.

KIM (Caller): Hi, it's not my experience as an executive recruiter that the people who are hiring, the few jobs that do exist, they do not want candidates who are willing to take less pay or do a lesser job. They specifically tell me do not bring me those candidates.

So 10 out of 10 candidates will say to me I'm willing to take a lesser job or lesser pay, but the client who hires me to find those candidates says I don't want them.

CONAN: And what kinds of you are hiring executives in Detroit?

KIM: Executives, yes, directors and above.

CONAN: And above, and for those positions, they're saying we want people who are presumably hard-chargers.

KIM: Well, the hard-chargers who are going after the jobs, they want them in the same pay range. So if I find if I have a client who has a director-level job that's paying $120,000, and a $160,000 candidate or a $150,000 candidate says I'm willing to do that for $100,000 and less bonus and less vacation, the client says no. I don't want them because they'll keep looking once things straighten out.

CONAN: Yeah, and they'll be unhappy in this job, and so they'll look somewhere else, yeah.

KIM: Yes. So they don't always have the choice of taking a lesser job or lesser pay.

CONAN: How many of those jobs are open in Detroit?

KIM: There are not a lot, which also makes it tough because for the few jobs, there are several candidates, and they're all scrambling and all willing to do less and do for less pay. But the clients who hire me to find them can be best or can be more picky.

CONAN: Well, it's certainly a buyers' market at this point, yeah, or a hirers' market. Kim, thanks very much for the call, appreciate it.

KIM: Thank you.

CONAN: Bye-bye. Let's go next to this is Daniel(ph), Daniel with us from Gadsden, Alabama.

DANIEL (Caller): Hello.

CONAN: Hi.

DANIEL: Hi, thank you for taking the call. I have just a couple of comments. My first is that I am not experiencing the unemployment today, but I have the visions of when I did in the mid-1980s, when I kept waiting for the trickle-down economics to help me.

Me and thousands of others of northeast Minnesota miners were laid off for the very last time through a cyclical nature of layoffs, and this was just the big Kahuna, I guess.

CONAN: Yeah.

DANIEL: But anyway, after that, there was a congressional effort called the Jobs Training Partnership Act, which enabled me to get two years of education to pursue another field that perhaps would be more stable for me. And of course, I chose to be a registered nurse, and I have been working fastidiously for the last 25 years, never having to look for another job and not worried about being laid off.

But in my comment to one of your guests there, regarding we have to accept lower wages, why don't we accept government intervention to create jobs, use the Jobs Training Partnership Act, if it's still in existence, and help us to go pursue green jobs and all sorts of other jobs, and basically get us better educated for what is out there, versus taking lower-paid jobs to try to make a mortgage and car payments and get our in kids through school? We're Third-Worlding this country, and we can't continue to accept less. Thank you very much.

CONAN: All right. And again, Jeffrey Miron, I think that was to you.

Mr. MIRON: So no one is objecting to getting new education, to getting retraining, to shifting in other sectors if the demand for your particular industry or occupation were to change. The question about whether we should do it via government is more complicated. The record of government creating jobs is not good. The government programs spent a lot of money. The evidence on whether they actually help people get new jobs, new sectors get reemployed faster, is at best, mixed. So that's a separate question. You can certainly make a reasonable argument for subsidizing training, for helping people to move into new sectors, but we also have to look at the evidence about how effective that is.

The notion that we should go for green jobs kind of thing, that's very problematic. That means the government is choosing which industries are going to be the winners and which are going to be the losers. And again, the track record, of not just the U.S. government but zillions of governments throughout history, is very bad at choosing those industries which are actually going to be productive and demand a marketplace. So I'm very leery about strategy.

CONAN: Andrew Stettner?

Mr. STETTNER: You know what - I mean, one thing and something, like, you know, your caller was involved in this, in Iron Range at that time, the state had a very effective program that said to employers, if you're willing to hire someone at a living wage - I think it was about $10 at that time - we'll subsidize part of the job to get them hired. And then, you know - and you'll get that full subsidy if they're still with you a year later. And that's the kind of targeted, you know, job subsidies (unintelligible) Senator Franken has a bill that would take that kind of program, you know, national.

You know, so - and I think, you know, there is a lot of people that are investing in education and training, that can only make us more competitive. It's, you know, it's definitely not the answer. You know, I used to say the government makes choices every day about which - and to intervene in the economy, so we don't have a world where our governments don't intervene in the economy. And, you know, being smart about what kind of policies we choose to enact, and what kind of laws and regulations and how they affect jobs, you know, is just a smarter way of looking at public policy.

CONAN: Andrew Stettner, the deputy director of the National Employment Law Project. Also with us, Jeffrey Miron, director of undergraduate studies at Harvard University's Department of Economics. And you're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

And here's an email from Andrew(ph) in Kingsport, Tennessee. When I was unemployed at one time, I got a job working under the table in construction and made a killing. I rode the unemployment as long as I could.

And this from Claire(ph) in Bucks County. If unemployment benefits are stimulus to the economy, why can't the stimulus money be used to fund the extension? And as I understand it, that was a part of what the argument was in Congress, and why the benefit extension was held up for so long.

Mr. STETTNER: So - I mean, just to address, you know, the couple of issues -and I want to just make a point. You know, if you're on unemployment benefits right now, and you get a part-time job that pays less than your unemployment benefits, you're better off. Every state has a policy that encourages you to get part-time work, and so you'll be able to keep some of that money. You'll do better off than just staying on unemployment.

And it's little understood by people on unemployment benefits, and they should look at that part of their handbook, because it is a benefit to them of getting a part-time job. And, you know - and there's a lot of efforts that the administration has been doing to make sure that there's not fraudulent claims. And, you know, that hurts everyone. No one should be working, you know, while they're paying - collecting unemployment. And, you know, in today's day and age, it's pretty hard to get away with it, you know, with, you know, all the computer tracking of wages, you know?

And to that - and to the last point, about the stimulus program, the stimulus money that's out there, you know, is for building roads that we need, it's going to help stabilize employment and improve our infrastructure. So, you know, take away that money, really, is stealing, you know, from Peter to pay Paul. I mean, I do the calculation. Unemployment benefits that have been paid out through the state and federal programs end up being about one and half percent of GDP since the recession started. And the decline in GDP is not much larger than that. So it's not a small program. It's a really important, you know, part of stabilizing our economy.

CONAN: Let's go to Betty(ph), and Betty is with us from Toledo.

BETTY (Caller): Hello...

CONAN: Hi, Betty.

BETTY: ...NPR. How are you?

CONAN: Very well, thanks.

BETTY: Okay. Let me just say this. Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. I done felt like Mary Poppins, trying to pull legal tricks out of the bag. And what I hear - and I'm not going to be on here long. When I hear the man from Harvard -I went to an Ivy League school, okay? I sent my daughter to an Ivy League school. And I'm in Ohio. And guess what? There are no jobs. I love Ohio, but I sure - I'm actually going to have to leave. But you know what? What he needs to do - Mr. Harvard, why don't you go and you take a job at McDonald's. Have a nice day.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. MISON: I'll let that one pass. Can I go back to the question of how it's paid for? On that point, the Republicans are being completely disingenuous. It's completely silly to argue whether the expenditure for unemployment insurance extension comes out of the stimulus package or just comes out of a new appropriation, because money is money. All of that money can be shifted back and forth. If there's valuable infrastructure spending to be done that isn't paid for in the existing stimulus bill, Congress can appropriate the money to build the necessary roads, hospitals, whatever. So the Republicans were just trying to use that sort of political trick to - rather than discussing the unemployment insurance on their merits.

CONAN: Let's see if we can get one last caller in. Collin(ph) is with us from Grand Junction, Colorado.

COLLIN (Caller): Hi. I've heard several experiences of people who reported that they haven't been able to find unemployment, and I'm sure that the benefit is being greatly appreciated by them. But I'd like to relate an experience from my family. And that is, one of immediate family members who lost their employment because of budget cuts at their place of work. And because of the unemployment benefits, didn't even start to look for another job of any sort while they water-skied all summer, and received redistributed tax money that had been collected from my salary while I continued to work all summer. And I think that that should be considered in evaluation as well.

CONAN: Sounds like this person was a single, young person.

COLLIN: That's true.

CONAN: All right. Collin, thanks very much for the call. Appreciate it. You get the last word, as it turns out. And we'd like to thank both of our guests for being with us today. Andrew Stettner, deputy director of the National Employment Law Project, joined us from our bureau in New York. Thanks very much for being with us today.

Mr. STETTNER: Thank you.

CONAN: And Jeffrey Miron, director of undergraduate studies at Harvard University at the Department of Economics, with us from the Holyoke Center at Harvard University. Thank you very much, too.

Mr. MIRON: My pleasure. Thank you.

CONAN: When we come back, we're going to be going to our summer movie festival which continues with a little inspiration. When the chips are down, it looks like all hope is gone, it's time for that great pep talk. Send us your pick for the greatest movie pep talk. You can do it. Get out there.

(Soundbite of movie, "Knutt Rockne, All American")

Mr. PAT O'BRIEN (Actor): (as Knute Rockne) And win just one for the Gipper.

CONAN: I'm Neal Conan. Stay with us. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

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