I found this story, from a Marketplace segment via Carpe Diem, especially irritating. Our company has to pay for a lot of unemployment fraud, so seeing such fraud in action really annoys the hell out of me.
Quick background: Employers pay unemployment taxes generally as a percentage of wages. These taxes are based on a direct relationship with past claims from ex-employees. The more of my ex-employees who make claims, the more premiums I pay.
Since I only have jobs for 6 months a year (it is a seasonable business), employees have the opportunity to file for unemployment the other 6 months. BUT, the rule is generally that you have to be looking for work.
Unfortunately, I have numerous employees who work for me over the summer and take the winter off, but tell the unemployment office they are looking for work so they can collect unemployment anyway. I have had employees call me from Mexico telling me about the great winter vacation they are having on the exact same day I see their names on the roles of those collecting unemployment (and thereby supposedly "looking for work").
In California, where such behavior is rampant (and where the state unemployment agency has established penalties for employers who even think about asking the state to investigate one of his ex-employees for fraud) I pay over 7% of wages in unemployment taxes, vs. less than 1% in states without such fraudulent behavior.
So, with this background, I am thrilled this guy is showing the initiative to find work but am frustrated he is still fraudulently taking my money:
Michael: I'm getting $272 a week [in unemployment benefits]. Which is just, bare bones. It's so bad that at one time I was going to the food bank. And, you know when you're really hungry and when you're facing eviction, you've got to do something.
Marketplace: So he started looking for work on the side. He found it pretty quickly.
Michael: So right now I have Craigslist open. And what I've done is I've opened three different tabs: I've opened free stuff, all gigs and all jobs.
Marketplace: He's found all sorts of work this way: software testing, landscaping, bouncing and lots of focus groups. All have paid cash. He says some weeks he's earned three times as much as his benefits check. Like everyone on unemployment, he's meant to report any earnings to his unemployment insurance office. Then they adjust his benefits down. So how does Michael answer the question, have you earned any money this week?
Michael: I opt to say, you know, no. I opt to say no, I have not. Because this is my own hard work, this is my own ingenuity, this is my own genius, and I am still looking for work every day.
You are absolutely right Michael, yours the same argument all productive folks make in the face of government expropriation. In fact, I couldn't have said it better - "this is my own hard work, this is my own ingenuity, this is my own genius." Brilliant. But recognize that the unemployment money you are taking fraudulently was paid for with my hard work, my ingenuity, and my own genius.