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Republicans to the Unemployed: You're Lazy

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Salt, meet wound. Wound being unemployment, and salt being the suggestion that the worst economy since the Great Depression was created by its powerless victims -- the jobless.

Republicans, do tell: If so many jobs are ripe for plucking, explain the five applicants for every job. (Down from six a few months ago. Oh joy.)

Why would anyone believe unemployment is voluntary when there is so much evidence to the contrary? The answer is surprisingly simple: Because that belief makes them feel good.

Life is not fair, we learned in childhood. Apparently we never got over it. The psychology term "just-world phenomenon" has been around for only half a century, but the practice of assuming people get what they deserve is not new. You can find examples in the poetry of Robert Browning and the Bible.

And in politics. A shrewd politician can take advantage of the just-world fallacy, defined as:
The tendency for people to want to believe [in a just world] so strongly that when they witness an otherwise inexplicable injustice they will rationalize it by searching for things the victim might have done to deserve it. This deflects their anxiety, and lets them continue to believe the world is a just place, but often at the expense of blaming victims for things that were not, objectively, their fault.
Many a cancer survivor has encountered the just-world theory firsthand. I myself am a survivor, and from my own experience, I can recreate a typical conversation. It goes something like this: Does cancer run in your family? Were you under a lot of stress before your diagnosis? Do you think the years you lived in Houston had anything to do with it? Etc.

If you want to make your friend happy, you should answer yes, yes, and yes. That's because 1) she's not related to you, 2) she meditates every day, and 3) she never lived in Houston. Therefore she will not get cancer. She can then exile you to the land of "the other" and all is right with the world again.

So maybe there's no science proving self-assurance wards off cancer any better than a voodoo incantation. Facts, schmacts! Feeling is what counts. She feels safer. If you feel worse, that's your tough luck. Which you already have, obviously. In abundance. Due to some failure on your part.

Politicians love a just world, especially conservatives. Take Sharron Angle, Republican candidate for senator of Nevada in the 2010 election.

Angle's message has all the subtlety of a car-lot sales pitch. Her handlers have scrubbed her Web site, but thanks to technology, we have her words archived for all eternity. She can run (watch Angle trot away from reporter Nathan Baca as he asks what she meant by "Second Amendment remedy" to incumbent Senator Harry Reid), but she can't hide.

During a speech, Angle was recorded saying, "We did those things growing up that Americans don't do. We cleaned bathrooms and made beds. Swept floors. Did laundry." But now, according to Angle, Americans won't do those jobs, and unemployment benefits, specifically Harry Reid's vote to extend them, are to blame.
You can make more money on unemployment than you can going down and getting one of those jobs that is an honest job, but it doesn't pay as much. And so that's what's happened to us is that we 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.
Angle caught some flack for that statement, so a week later she clarified:
I was criticized for saying that Americans won't do certain jobs and the reason that they won't do certain jobs is because they get more pay on unemployment than they can get to work those...those good jobs that are really out there. What has happened is Harry Reid has just extended unemployment and when he did that he not only made it so that people are less employable, but he makes it so that they want to be dependent on the government. This entitlement pays them more than getting a real job.
Sharron Sharron Sharron. Girl, I gotta ask: Who taught you how to backpedal? Cuz you suck at it. You're supposed to neutralize your first comment, not reinforce it. If you can't backpedal worth a damn, I predict your career in politics will be short and not at all sweet.

Ms. Angle continued:
Harry Reid is not thinking about real solutions. All he is doing is putting on these Band-aid fixes which is to extend unemployment. And when he does that, what happens is that he takes away the incentive to have a job because if you are making more on unemployment than you can if you go to work for Starbucks or some other place where they have a real job available, because you know that you can't make as much as you are making on unemployment, you'll stay on unemployment.
So the problem today is not too few jobs. The problem is unemployment benefits are too generous. How do you get people to work if they're not starving and desperate? (I'll bet slaveholders in the old South used to chaw tobacco over just such an issue.)

Here's a chart of real wages and benefits (adjusted for inflation) from the 1960s to 2004. In 1971 average weekly wages were about $331. Some 30 years later the average wage had dropped to $277. And that was 2004, prior to the current recession, which has further decimated the average worker's earnings.

Where's the Republican outrage on the minimum wage losing buying power? On the off-shoring of good jobs? On the huge increases in the cost of health care and college tuition? Instead of eliminating the few safety nets we possess, why not reverse course on policies that have, for decades, chipped away at the middle class in favor of banks, big business and the wealthy?

Not likely. It's easier to assume losers never really wanted to win in the first place. Or didn't deserve to win.

Which brings us back to the just-world theory. Says the Markula Center for Applied Ethics:
When we encounter evidence suggesting that the world is not just, we quickly act to restore justice by helping the victim or we persuade ourselves that no injustice has occurred. We either lend assistance or we decide that the rape victim must have asked for it, the homeless person is simply lazy, the fallen star must be an adulterer. These attitudes are continually reinforced in the ubiquitous fairy tales, fables, comic books, cop shows and other morality tales of our culture, in which good is always rewarded and evil punished....The belief in a just world may take the place of a genuine commitment to justice.
Hear ye, Republicans! The unemployed are not lazy. It's you who are intellectually lazy. Or -- even worse -- you understand. You know that most of the people losing jobs and homes in these terrible times did nothing wrong whatsoever. You simply don't care.

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133 Comments

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witchseason333

Republicans to the jobless, "youre lazy" Me and any decent live by the rules, hardworking but screwed over by a greedy employer to the Republi-CONs, Go to HELL

August 10 2010 at 4:33 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
searching36

I read Donna Trussell's comments about the unemployed with considerable interest primarily because in another life, I shared responsibility for hiring both seasonal and year-around workers. Ms. Trussell makes a fundamental error in presenting her case that the unemployed are not, as some conservatives declare, lazy, in that she applies a cookie-cutter approach to her treatment of them. Surely, when she proclaims the unemployed are not lazy, she cannot be correct simply because the unemployed are individuals and in any pool of individuals we will find some who are indeed, lazy, and some who are ambitious and energetic. I tend to agree with her defense, however, of the charge of lassitude because first-hand experience taught me that many of the chronic unemployed apply themselves energetically to the task of understanding the myriad laws concerning unemployment benefits, workers compensation and other forms of government or government-mandated benefits. In Michigan, where I spent my business career, there are many seasonal jobs and under the state unemployment rules, persons may acquire credit weeks while working that then becomes a base for calculating the duration of unemployment benefits. Many seasonal employees will decline to seek work after a period of seasonal employment because they choose instead to use their unemployment benefits which some believe they "earned" by virtue of working. An unemployment benefit, then, is "compensation" in the minds of many.
It not only the unemployed who hold that view. It is not uncommon for seasonal employers to explain to prospective employees that in addition to their wage, they will qualify for a period of unemployment benefits and should factor that benefit into their total compensation package. Under Michigan's law, employees do not have to spend time seeking employment so long as the state's unemployment rate is 7% or greater so there is no need to seek work most of the time. A careful applicant, can with some temporary employment, unemployment benefits and other services made available to low-income persons (including health care), ease out a fairly comfortable existence. And there is no reason to find fault with their character. These are career choices made by thoughtful persons who are aware of other options.

Unlike Ms.Trussell, I am aware that here I am describing a niche unemployment group. There are those who lost year-around positions through no fault of their own and are in situations where the wage for menial jobs would not allow them to continue to live their lives as they did while employed. However, the unemployment benefit is not much greater than the pay for menial work in the first place. Because the wages for menial work approximates the unemployment benefit, would we not consider someone mentally incompetent if he were to choose, say to clean toilets for a small sum on which he would pay income tax, social security, union dues and bear work-related costs such as transportation and clothing, when he could lounge at home in comfort and draw more from the unemployment system than he could net if he dwelled, instead, among the employed? Under those conditions, laziness is not the issue; common sense is the issue.

Ms. Trussell, unhappily, speaks more as an intellectual than someone who has hands on experience with a topic she comments on with sebaceous sarcasm (at least so far as her remarks concerning those who oppose unemployment benefits). And yet, she misses the true point of expanding unemployment benefits which is that it puts billions of dollars into the hands of consumers who will then help secure the jobs of those who are not unemployed which is good. What is bad, however, is that funds must in this instance be drawn from an empty bank account. We simply lack the funds and under existing law, we cannot pass laws that require appropriations unless we first find a revenue source. We don't have one. The solution to this dilemma would be to change the law so that extended benefits would be paid by the employer who laid the worker off in the first place. As it stands, because the employer's exposure is limited to the first 26 weeks of unemployment, the employer has little concern for long-term lay-offs because the cost burden is transferred from the employer to the general public. Should the employer bear all the cost, he would first, take more care in the number of employees hired in the first place, and secondly, would exercise more diligence in attempting to retain those he did hire.

July 16 2010 at 11:13 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Michael

I am a business owner in the midwest. We have at least 15 people come in or call in looking for work every week. I am amazed at how out of touch with reality the Republicans are. I don't think I can vote Republican anymore. You must follow thru with a long term plan in order to achieve the desired results, we are at least 18 months away from a solid recovery.
The Republicans are trying to undermine the Democratic Partys plan for political gain at everyones expense. They have started the downward slide all over again, it won't show for about 2 or 3 months.

June 29 2010 at 10:39 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
liesma

It'll be great to see many of these 20 and 30 year fat cats lose their jobs this year and in 2012 so then they would find out what it really means to look for work...along with current 20 and 30 year Dems...clear all the old ones out and get in new fresh people who might actually have new ideas showing they care about the country.

June 27 2010 at 6:28 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to liesma's comment
robertmwright

Sorry, but the sad fact is, the incumbents that lose their jobs in Congress will have endless opportunities to get filthy rich as lobbyists. When was the last time you ever heard of an impoverished ex-member of Congress???

June 27 2010 at 10:25 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
jjmaninblack

AMEN, Sister Donna... well written...

The Problem is, that no smug repblican conservative who has a job will understand what you just said..

And Sharon Angle is right, also... the guy who just lost his $100,000 a year job to five people in India who make probably half that total combined wages, or better yet, to a younger new hire ( at maybe 1/3 his wages...he's not going to clean toilets...or serve coffee in Starbucks..

but not because he's lazy..

He's out busting his hump 60 hours a week for $500 unemployment, looking for another " Real Job, "... getting one reject after another, watching his savings dry up, watching his children's college fund dry up, watching his family's nerves go to hell...

Eeesh... sometimes when your up to your butt in aligators, it probably would seem better to be cleaning toilets for the Good Senator to Be, instead of watching your life become dismantled by Republican intrangigence.


I know why Ms Angle wants to become senator... because after one term, she won't ever have to work again.... and we're paying the entire tab...

How about the pot calling the kettle black...Who's Lazy here ???

June 27 2010 at 5:01 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to jjmaninblack's comment
starchildlucy

She won't even wait one term. Once she is in, she be just another, LAZY, Capital Hill power broker looking to increase her personal folio and IF she happens to ever give a thought to her constituents, it will be the next Election Day. Her words simply highlight the truth that is staring us in the face - and this ought to get some dander up - Congress is like the Politboro that folded with the Soviet Union - power and privilege and us little people who are here to serve. I went to school 12 years to get an education in the Sciences and I am supposed to aspire to cleaning toilets? To working at Starbucks? I've been doing the "stop gap" jobs for 18 months now - savings is just about gone. Why shouldn't I expect help from a govenment structure that I have been paying taxes to for the last 25 years?? Stop sending US tax dollars out of the country for any old reason! Stop giving massive tax breaks to the Big Businesses who the taxpayer bailed out only to lose their jobs in the name of the bottom line! They want tax breaks? Earn them by putting America back to work! And start levying duties on companies that outsource - we pay duty on imported goods - they should pay duty on imported labor products. At least the American consumer gets to laugh in their faces when they try to pass the cost on to us. The American Government should be taking care of the American people, NOT vice versa.

June 27 2010 at 10:34 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
rferrara

the gop to big biz in the US: continue to screw us and the world which will further the hatred of the ugly american abroad and lead to vigilantism in the US. there will come a time when the middle class guys have had all they can take and will then take the law into their own hands.
corp execs and lobbyists will be the first to be found in at the bottom of the ocean. crooked pols, judges and lawyers will soon follow. it is their choice.
we've obeyed the rules and laws without anarchy. but push too far and they will know the meaning of avenge and revenge.

June 27 2010 at 4:29 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Kirschmom5

It is easy to blame the jobless, that way they don't have to take the blame for sending jobs over seas just because the labor is cheaper. If they lowered their salaries put the money into finding jobs for the citizens of this country and/or help someone find jobs then they wouldn't have all that "crap" to discuss behind closed doors. Bring the factories back over here and give the jobs back to the citizens of the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA where they belong.

June 27 2010 at 1:59 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
Rob & Kathy

Unemployed lazy? In some cases this is undoubtably true...

June 26 2010 at 9:25 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Rob & Kathy's comment
robertmwright

10% of the entire population????

June 27 2010 at 10:27 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Dave Brown

The answer is to use government money to create jobs, not to just hand out cash willy nilly. Put a load of cash in the middle of an intersection, offering it to those who need it, and you can bet a non-needy guy with a front-loader will get most of it.

June 26 2010 at 9:23 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Dave Brown's comment
Kirschmom5

amen

June 27 2010 at 1:43 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
lun9jm

What is a person supposed to do when your bills are more than what a job pays? When buying fuel and every thing else that also goes with going to work? Not only that when jobs you apply for, the boss says you can not have a second job? What is a person supposed to do declare bankrupcy? Where does that help any one?

June 26 2010 at 8:13 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to lun9jm's comment
robertmwright

Thanks to the GOP, filing for bankruptcy doesn't really offer a fresh start anymore, to most folks that wind up hopelessly in debt through no fault of their own, as a result of catastrophic medical bills followed by insurance companies canceling coverage.

June 27 2010 at 10:35 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

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