, Salem, MA

August 13, 2013

A look at what others are saying

The Salem News

---- — The following are excerpts from editorials published in other papers across the region:

The economy

As President Obama works to refocus attention in Washington and across the country on the economy, new research from the University of New Hampshire suggests the job may be more complicated than it appears.

The president and others have expressed relief in the slowly shrinking unemployment rate, which has made steady progress across the country since the depths of the Great Recession. But a report from the Carsey Institute at UNH indicates that politicians should be concerned not just about those Americans who are out of work but also about those working part time involuntarily — in other words, people who would prefer full-time work but are unable to find it. As the economy has rebounded, the percentage of involuntary part-time workers — those working fewer than 35 hours each week — has remained stubbornly high, creating significant hardships for them and their families. The Carsey report notes:

The single largest five-year increase in involuntary part-time employment since the 1970s occurred between 2007 and 2012.

The involuntary part-time employment rate more than doubled between 2007 and 2012. For women, it rose from 3.6 percent to 7.8 percent. For men, the rate increased from 2.4 percent in 2007 to 5.9 percent in 2012.

While the unemployment rate has slowly fallen since 2010, the rate of workers in involuntary part-time positions has remained relatively constant.

You might think the factors that lift the general economy out of recession would create full-time opportunities for such workers but, so far, that’s not happening. In Washington and at the state level, it’s worth some hard thinking about why — and what might be done about it.

There is a worry, of course, that the number of involuntary part-timers could grow, rather than shrink, in future years. That’s because the Affordable Care Act requires employers to provide health insurance to full-timers; reducing employees’ hours below the 30-hour threshold could potentially save companies money.

For many people, part-time work is a blessing: It gives them flexibility and allows them to balance education or child-care or elder-care responsibilities with earning a living. But for those part-timers who would prefer full-time work, the economic recovery is still a work in progress.

— Concord (N.H.) Monitor

Welfare abuse

State welfare officials and the USDA agreed to permit local police to investigate stores for fraud in the Supplement Nutrition Assistance Program. Under the agreement, already in force in 14 other states, local police can go after stores which accept SNAP credit, but rather than sell food to beneficiaries, simply issue them a smaller amount of cash, which they can then use as they see fit.

Such a practice is an obvious abuse of the welfare system, and we’re glad to see the state and feds empowering cities and towns to crack down on it.

But as with most recent reforms to welfare, it’s a very modest step to end what is likely a very small piece of the problem. Lawmakers continue to balk at taking the most obvious and necessary step — making it impossible to use welfare benefit cards to obtain cash at ATMs.

Abuses of the system must be rooted out and eliminated for the good of all.

— Worcester Telegram