REPUBLICANS JUST DON’T LIKE THE UNEMPLOYED, CONT’D…. I’ve been marveling in recent months at the ways in which Republican lawmakers and candidates seem to actively dislike — on a personal level — those who’ve lost their jobs in the recession. It’s kind of odd, given that the unemployed don’t seem to have done anything to offend the GOP and earn the party’s disdain.
In the latest example, we see Pennsylvania Attorney General Tom Corbett (R), the frontrunner in this year’s gubernatorial race, arguing publicly that jobless workers in his state are choosing not to work, preferring to live on meager unemployment aid.
Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Corbett on Friday accused some jobless Pennsylvanians of choosing to collect unemployment checks rather than going back to work, prompting swift criticism from his Democratic opponent and one of the state’s top labor leaders.
“The jobs are there. But if we keep extending unemployment, people are just going to sit there,” Corbett told Harrisburg radio station WITF at a campaign stop in Elizabethtown. “I’ve literally had construction companies tell me, ‘I can’t get people to come back to work until . . . they say, “I’ll come back to work when unemployment runs out.” ‘ “
I obviously can’t speak with confidence about what some guy told some other guy who in turn told Corbett. But the general argument is getting quite tiresome.
“The jobs are there”? No, they’re really not. Nationwide, there are five applicants for every one opening, which is a terribly painful ratio. Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate is currently at a 26-year high.
Corbett not only seems confused about economic conditions, but his animosity about the jobless’ attitudes is awful. Yes, I can appreciate the fact that an unemployed worker who’s exhausted his/her benefits will be more desperate to take any job than an unemployed worker who’s still receiving public aid. But this dynamic matters a whole lot more when there are plenty of job opportunities for those who want them. That’s just not the current reality.
To hear Corbett tell it, the unemployed prefer to be unemployed — turning down job opportunities that pay more, choosing to rely on aid that offers far less. Worse, Corbett doesn’t seem to realize that his approach makes the larger problem worse — cutting people off from unemployment benefits undercuts consumer spending, which in turn leads to less demand and fewer job opportunities.
And in the bigger picture, Republicans’ efforts to castigate the jobless continue to strike me as bizarre. Sharron Angle, the extremist Republican Senate candidate in Nevada, considers the unemployed “spoiled .” One GOP congressman recently compared the unemployed to “hobos.” In the House, GOP lawmakers tried to eliminate a successful jobs program. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) actually started pushing a measure to require the unemployed to take mandatory drug tests in exchange for benefits. Kentucky’s Rand Paul wants the jobless to quit their bellyaching and “get back to work.”
And, of course, in the Senate, Republicans have refused to allow a vote to extend unemployment benefits, and won’t even consider aid to states that would prevent hundreds of thousands of additional layoffs.
What did the unemployed ever do to offend the Republican Party this much?