It is by no means a simple question, but I thought it was worth asking in today’s column: Is the government doing too much by giving out two years’ worth of weekly unemployment benefits?

Is it discouraging workers from taking lower-paying, less desirable jobs while they look for something else?

Is it preventing people from taking difficult but necessary job-seeking steps, like looking for new cities to live in or moving to new career fields?

And then comes today’s Wall Street Journal:

Management Recruiters of Sacramento, Calif., says it recently had a tough time filling six engineering positions at an Oregon manufacturer paying $60,000 a year—and suspects long-term jobless benefits were part of the hitch. “We called several engineers that were unemployed,” says Karl Dinse, a managing partner at the recruiting firm. “They said, nah, you know, if it were paying $80,000 I’d think about it.” Some candidates suggested he call them back when their benefits were scheduled to run out, he says.

And then Harvard history and business professor Niall Ferguson, speaking at the Aspen Ideas festival, chimes in:

“The curse of longterm unemployment is that if you pay people to do nothing, they’ll find themselves doing nothing for very long periods of time,” Ferguson said. “Long-term unemployment is at an all-time high in the United States, and it is a direct consequence of a misconceived public policy.”

Can 99 weeks of unemployment benefits bring diminishing or even negative returns? It’s really not a dumb or a heartless question, despite what some on the Left might say.