Friday, February 10, 2012

A Uniquely American Success Story

I bring up this woman, Felecia Hatcher of Feverish Ice Cream, because I think she's a great example of how our system is so advantageous to entreprenuers.  She and her husband used to work at Nintendo and were laid off in 2008, the height of the US economic meltdown.  So they began a business selling ice pops with flavors that appeal to adults, using ice cream carts purchased off craigslist.

Apple Martini. Apple Pie. Almond Butter. These three things did not have a lot in common until 28-year-old Felecia Hatcher came along and made them into ice cream and popsicle flavors.
Hatcher, who lives in Florida, has made a name for herself with Feverish, an aptly named line of gourmet ice cream trucks that cater to the state’s warm-weather residents year-round. 

I'd eat them, sounds delish...But that's not the important point.  The point is she started the business because she was unemployed.  Ok, a lot of people do that. What's so special about that, you say? The greatness of America is that she had access to unemployment compensation, most likely for at least six to twelve months. The removal of unemployment benefits would be devastating to the US economy at this moment, not only because of lack of money churning in the consumer economy.  Removal, or reduction of benefits, would not give enterprising individuals like this one the time to get their new business off the ground.

In this time of deciding whether or not we should be extending these benefits, let's look to this as an example.  

Simon Johnson of the New York Times:
Extended unemployment benefits provide on average about $300 a week — one-third of the average weekly wage and only about 70 percent of the poverty level for a family of four. If you strip even this money from people who remain out of work through no fault of their own, you will push more individuals and families onto the streets and into shelters. The cost of providing those fallback services is very high — and much higher than providing unemployment benefits. 
How does it help any economic recovery when the people who lose jobs cannot even afford to buy basic goods and services — enough to keep their family afloat? 
Do you think that Hatcher and her husband could have started their successful venture having to worry about the above issues?  If they couldn't find work, would it have been better for them to have gone onto welfare? Which is more cost effective in the long run: paying for unemployment insurance or having another house in foreclosure, another set of people who cannot purchase any goods and services, another person in despair who already feels feels bad because they can't find a job. America's strength is the understanding that risk needs a safety net too. Popsicle anyone?

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