REPUBLICANS JUST DON’T LIKE THE UNEMPLOYED, CONT’D…. Just yesterday, President Obama spoke on the importance of unemployment benefits, and the misguided Republican argument that jobless Americans choose to stay that way — on purpose — because they’re receiving benefits.
“That attitude I think reflects a lack of faith in the American people, because the Americans I hear from in letters and meet in town hall meetings … they’re not looking for a handout,” Obama said. “They desperately want to work. Just right now they can’t find a job. These are honest, decent, hardworking folks who’ve fallen on hard times through no fault of their own, and who have nowhere else to turn except unemployment benefits and who need emergency relief to help them weather this economic storm.”
But Republicans keep making the argument anyway. Sharron Angle, the extremist Senate candidate in Nevada, has already pushed this line, calling the unemployed “spoiled.” Greg Sargent reports this afternoon on two more GOP Senate candidates making the same case. Here’s Ron Johnson, the right-wing Republican taking on Russ Feingold in Wisconsin…
“When you continue to extend unemployment benefits, people really don’t have the incentive to go take other jobs. They’ll just wait the system out until their benefits run out, then they’ll go out and take, probably not as high paying jobs as they’d like to take, but that’s really how you have to get back to work.”
…and here’s Sen. Richard Burr (R), seeking a second term in North Carolina:
“The wrong thing to do is to automatically today extend unemployment for 12 months. I think that’s a discouragement to individuals that are out there to actually go out and go through the interviews.”
It’s not just Senate candidates — a couple of weeks ago, Pennsylvania Attorney General Tom Corbett (R), the frontrunner in this year’s gubernatorial race, argued that jobless Americans choose not to work. “The jobs are there,” Corbett said in a state facing unemployment levels at a 26-year high. “But if we keep extending unemployment, people are just going to sit there.”
Look, if Republicans want to make the case that the deficit is more important than the plight of the unemployed, fine. It’s a debate they’ll lose, but at least it’s something to talk about.
But this notion, pushed by Republicans for months, that jobless aid creates a disincentive for people to work, is misguided.
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 — we’re in the midst of an employment crisis, and there are five applicants for every job opening.
For leading GOP officials and candidates to keep arguing that joblessness is something people choose shows a striking detachment from the lives of real people.
I don’t know what the unemployed did to offend the Republican Party this much, but I can only hope the GOP gets over it.