Those lazy unemployed

A meme is going around which that the reason the unemployment rate is persistently high is the extension of unemployment compensation benefits.  Here are some quotes I found in a brief Google search on “lazy unemployed.” [1]

Republican Sharron Angle, running for Senate in Nevada: “[W]e have put in so much entitlement into our government that we really have spoiled our citizenry and said, you don’t want the jobs that are available.”

Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Arizona): “[C]ontinuing to pay people unemployment compensation is a disincentive for them to seek new work.”

Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa): “We shouldn’t turn the safety net into a hammock. It should actually be a safety net.”

Rep. Dan Heller (R-Nevada): “Is the government now creating hobos?”

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah): “You know, we should not be giving cash to people who basically are just going to blow it on drugs.”

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis), giving the official Republican reply to the 2011 State of the Union address: “If government’s growth is left unchecked and unchallenged …… we will transform our social safety net into a hammock, which lulls able-bodied people into lives of complacency and dependency.”

And here is a comment about free school lunches.

South Carolina Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer: “My grandmother was not a highly educated woman, but she told me as a small child to quit feeding stray animals. You know why? Because they breed. You’re facilitating the problem if you give an animal or a person ample food supply. They will reproduce, especially ones that don’t think too much further than that. And so what you’ve got to do is you’ve got to curtail that type of behavior. They don’t know any better.”

A difference between self-identified liberals and self-identified conservatives [2] is that when they see somebody in trouble, the former tend to think the person must have suffered some kind of misfortune while the latter think the person must have done something wrong to bring the problem on themselves.

That is why liberals call conservatives “mean-spirited,” and conservatives call liberals “bleeding hearts.”

I think of myself as a liberal.  When I see somebody in trouble, I tend to imagine myself in their place.  I admit this is a bias, but I don’t think you have to be a liberal to find the above statements mean-spirited.

It is true that back in the 1960s, when the economy was booming and layoffs were almost always temporary, there were people who regarded unemployment insurance as a form of paid vacation to enjoy while waiting to be called back to work.  I vaguely some studies in the 1970s or maybe the 1980s indicating that the average length of unemployment equaled the average length of availability of unemployment compensation.  All the workers who did that had previously paid payroll taxes to support the unemployment compensation fund, so I don’t think of them as ripping off the system.

But it has been a generation since that kind of life was possible.  Any business with job openings at decent wages will find itself flooded with applications.  Some will come to the office door at 2 a.m. in order to be first in line.  At least that was the case when I was reporting on business in the 1990s, and things are no better now.

It also is true that there is such a thing as an underclass of people who have no higher aspiration than to get by as best they can through social services, free-food cupboards and odd jobs in the off-the-books economy.

But nobody who has enjoyed the satisfaction of a regular job and the security of a regular paycheck would willingly trade that for subsistence on unemployment compensation.  Acquaintances who volunteer at Rochester food cupboards tell me that they are serving people who never conceived that they would ever have to ask for charity.  I don’t think anybody who is familiar with job-seekers networking and support groups would think of them as lazy.  The ones I know about are as hardworking and persistent as can be.  I don’t think anybody who sneers at their plight would willingly trade places with them.

Click on Working class is middle-class no more for one of my earlier posts on this subject.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which tracks the number of people who’ve been unemployed for  27 weeks or more, and 99 weeks or more, has added a new statistical category – people who’ve been unemployed for  260 weeks (five years) or more.

Click on Navigating the Jobs Crisis for some possible solutions from the Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt Institute.

[1]  All these statements were made in the past 12 months.

[2]  These sweeping statements don’t apply to independent thinkers such as yourself.  I was generalizing about all these other people.

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