Thursday, November 25, 2010

Continuing The War Against The Unemployed

There is always something to be thankful for on Thanksgiving Day. Unfortunately, for the unemployed, it's not the GOP, as The Huffington Post reported a few days ago:

The House of Representatives on Thursday voted down a measure that would have reauthorized extended unemployment insurance for another three months, leaving no clear path forward to prevent the benefits from lapsing as scheduled on Nov. 30.

Without a reauthorization, the Labor Department estimates that two million long-term unemployed will prematurely stop receiving benefits before the end of the year....

The bill was brought to the floor under a "suspension of the rules," meaning it required approval from two-thirds of the House. It failed 258 to 154, with mostly Democratic support. Twenty-one Republicans voted in favor and 11 Democrats voted nay.

Sympathize, however, with those Republicans. It's hard to buck this guy, of whom it was written three months ago:

With millions of long term unemployed Americans losing everything they have, Fox News host Glenn Beck recently went on his show and said “Have you heard of the 99ers?” He then showed footage of the 99ers protest on Wall Street from last Thursday and said “Some of these people, I bet you’d be ashamed to call them Americans.” Most of the 99ers at the protest were locals to the area and chose Wall Street to symbolize that Congress is willing to bail out wealthy Wall Street businesses but not the unemployed.

Glen Beck was kind enough to offer some Republican solutions to the 99ers problems by adding “Don’t spend your remaining money on travel to get to a protest. Go out and get a job. You may not want the job. Work at McDonald’s. Work two jobs.”

And Beck has a powerful media figure in his corner, Fox News chairman Roger Ailes. In his recent interview with the guy who runs the de facto communications arm of the Republican Party, Howie Kurtz noted

There’s one criticism that Ailes doesn’t want to hear. He admonished the staff after unnamed Fox journalists told me they are worried that the divisive Beck is becoming the face of the network.

“Yeah, shut up,” says Ailes. “You’re getting a paycheck. Go on the team or get off the team. Don’t run around here badmouthing a colleague.”

Ailes is no Roger-come-lately on Beck, having warned in April "Glenn Beck does his show and that's his opinion. It's not the opinion of FOX News and he has a right to say it. We prefer people in the tent not dumping on other people in the tent."

For Beck, as with so much of the right, unemployed people are lazy and can be ignored, despite- or perhaps because- there are so many of them (graph from Center for Budget and Policy Priorities):

In the interests of argument, let's posit that the GOP attitude is accurate, that a substantial portion of unemployed individuals lack a job primarily because they do not want to work. If this slothfulness were to apply to 60% of those on the unemployed rolls, there still would be..... two people vying for an average job.

For those of us who don't believe Americans are lazy or are enthused that the surplus of workers to jobs lowers the wage rate, that still would be too many individuals unable to find employment. And that still would demonstrate a need for unemployed benefits for those two individuals unable to find work- and for those three individuals, who, content not to be employed, better enable the other two to find work.

On the micro (individual) level, laziness needs to be discouraged; but on the macro-national- level, an economy with fully five unemployed individuals per job available little suffers because some portion of that five does not seriously pursue employment. And all five of those individuals without a source of legal income, as most of the Repub Party supports, are five individuals unable to spend and help lift our nation out of its economic downturn. Which, for the Party of No, may be the point.


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