Political Animal


September 06, 2011 1:55 PM The GOP still doesn’t like the unemployed

By Steve Benen

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) told CNN yesterday that he’s visited with a lot of business people lately, and he’s learned they’re “actually afraid to hire people” because they’re “afraid of what the government will do to them.”

That’s awfully dumb — when Republicans find evidence of government punishing employers for hiring workers, they should let everyone know — but it was the next part of the interview that really stood out.

“I have talked to a lot of businesses in South Carolina who can’t get employees to come back to work because they are getting unemployment and they’re getting food stamps and they say, ‘Call me when unemployment runs out.’ […]

“There are a lot of people who desperately need it and we need to make sure that we have that safety net in place, but we also have to realize there are a lot of people gaming the system right now.”

I’m not sure which of DeMint’s talking points were supposed to believe — are employers afraid to hire or are they struggling with lazy people who won’t apply for openings? — but the rhetoric is a reminder that Republicans just don’t seem to like the unemployed.

In DeMint’s mind, the jobless are living it up on meager unemployed benefits, and don’t want to seek gainful employment. In reality, the number of applicants outnumbers the number of job openings by about a six-to-one margin*, and the private sector isn’t hiring as much because of a lack in demand — a problem DeMint intends to make worse through an austerity agenda.

I have to admit, given the number of Americans struggling with unemployment and underemployment, I’m a little surprised by the number of Republicans who’ve shown outright hostility towards those who’ve lost their jobs.

A few months ago, Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Texas) equated the unemployed with alcoholics and drug addicts, while Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) compared the unemployed to “hobos.” All kinds of GOP officeholders have said the unemployed choose not to work because of jobless benefits, while a few want to impose mandatory drug testing for the jobless — because if you can’t find work, you’re not only to blame, you’re also a suspected addict.

I realize there’s some evidence to suggest benefits, in a healthy economy, can delay workers reentering the workforce, but this is (a) far harder to believe when the job market is already terribly weak; and (b) hardly an excuse for so many GOP officials to take personal shots at those who are already struggling.

* fixed

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


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  • Josef K on September 06, 2011 2:06 PM:

    Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) told CNN yesterday that he’s visited with a lot of business people lately, and he’s learned they’re “actually afraid to hire people” because they’re “afraid of what the government will do to them.”

    If he had any sense, Senator DeMint would be afraid of what they (the unemployed) might do to him if they become desperate enough. Despite our comparative youth as a country, American's have a rich and bloody history of rioting and social violence.

    I don't know how bad the unemployment rate is in the Carolina's right now, but if DeMint continues to publically push things for the worse, he may find himself experiencing some of that history first-hand.

    Gods but I hope, for his and all our sakes, this get turned around somehow before it gets to that point.

  • c u n d gulag on September 06, 2011 2:06 PM:

    In a Senate full of f*cking morons, DeMint will give anybody else a run for their money.

    I've applied for hundreds of jobs over the last 2+ years.
    But I'm either overqualified for the jobs in my area, or they're mostly retail and I have a handicap that prevents me from standing for long, or walking far. And I can't move too far because my father's in his mid-80's, and my mother will soon be 80.

    If he thinks I don't want to work, rather than sit around commenting on Liberal blogs, he's even dumber than he looks.

  • retr2327 on September 06, 2011 2:06 PM:

    "In reality, the number of job openings outnumbers the number of applicants by about a six-to-one margin."

    I do not think this means what you meant . . .

  • MR Bill on September 06, 2011 2:09 PM:

    Last year, at a Young Harris College alumni party, a guy I went to college with, who is now a South Carolina banker. He pulled out a bong, took a hit, and told me that despite my concerns (like DeMint's opposition to the Consumer Finance Protection Agency) "he's really sound on the economy."
    I choked on my drink, spilled most of it, and left the party...

  • SteveT on September 06, 2011 2:19 PM:

    I have to admit, given the number of Americans struggling with unemployment and underemployment, I'm a little surprised by the number of Republicans who've shown outright hostility towards those who've lost their jobs.

    Are you really surprised, Steve? Seriously?

    The Republicans know that the corporate-controlled media will never report on the kinds of hatred they spew out when they're talking to the true believers.

    And they know that if a Democrat ever tried to quote what they said and managed to get through the media's pro-conservative filter, then all they would have to do is shout "Class warfare!" and the Democrat would soil themselves before meekly backing down.

  • Martin on September 06, 2011 2:22 PM:

    "In reality, the number of job openings outnumbers the number of applicants by about a six-to-one margin."

    I believe you mean the job seekers outnumber the openings by 6 to 1.

    CAPTCHA: "arcgeU strong" huh?

  • MikeBoyScout on September 06, 2011 2:23 PM:

    Oh dear!
    Has the Republican led state legislature and Republican governor of South Carolina created some terrible unemployment compensation program there?

    What is Sen DeMint going to do about his gone rouge South Carolina Republicans?

  • MuddyLee on September 06, 2011 2:25 PM:

    Jim DeMint is just passing around the "blame the victim" internet anecdotes that so many repubs love. I received a ton of these emails after Hurricane Katrina - the problem wasn't bad work by Bush's FEMA clowns, it was that New Orleans was full of alcoholics and welfare addicted people who were too stupid or lazy to evacuate. A popular email showed a guy wading through chest high water with an air mattress with a few things on it, including a six pack of beer. For you guys who don't live in SC, and don't know much about DeMint, he is worse than Strom Thurmond - and he controls most of the SC members of the House. He's the one who is anti-American, but of course he has accused Obama of this.

  • jlt on September 06, 2011 2:26 PM:

    Deminted knows nothing but talking points and scripted lies...He is not confused..just terminally dumb.


    Refuting more of the repub bagger lies:

  • SteveT on September 06, 2011 2:30 PM:

    MikeBoyScout said:
    What is Sen DeMint going to do about his gone rouge South Carolina Republicans?

    South Carolina has been a "rouge" state since the Republican Party welcomed the segregationists who were fleeing the pro-civil rights Democratic Party. [grin]

    But I doubt that South Caroline is 'rogue' enough to offer much more than bare-bones unemployment.

  • Gummo on September 06, 2011 2:31 PM:

    Demonizing the unemployed as subhumans responsible for their own misery is a rationalization for any of DeMint's listeners who might still have qualms about destroying the social safety net.

    Sometimes things really are as simple as they seem.

  • Brenna on September 06, 2011 2:32 PM:

    It's sickening. Politicians flat out lie. We all know they lie. The media refuses to do their job and instead abet them. Why are we surprised? We are the problem.

  • kevo on September 06, 2011 2:32 PM:

    Hey DeMint - get your head out of where the sun don't shine!

    Hey DeMint - you think people are gaming the system to get pork and beans covered with Velveta on the dinner table?

    Hey DeMint - you think corporations are people too, like your Republican friend Romney?

    Well DeMint - are you foolish enough not to think many of your major corporate donors are gaming the system for far more than the next miserly meal one needs to put on the dinner table!

    What bassackwards idiots we have elected! DeMint is the poster boy for all that is reprehensibly wrong with our government by, for, and of the people! -Kevo

  • hells littlest angel on September 06, 2011 2:42 PM:

    Rhetorical question: Did the CNN interviewer follow up by asking DeMint to name some of the businesses that made this extraordinary claim?

  • Perspecticus on September 06, 2011 2:42 PM:

    It is a crazy fact how much the GOP appears to dislike unemployed people. Especially when one considers the efforts and great pains the GOP goes through to create so many of them.

  • Michael Carpet on September 06, 2011 2:54 PM:

    hells littlest x 1000! Any "journalist" transcribing DeMint's talking points should have asked, "please name three of the businesses you spoke to that made this comment." The fact that this did not happen is proof of how far what passes for "journalism" has fallen.

  • Kathie on September 06, 2011 2:57 PM:

    Jim DeMint, Rep. Joe Walsh and Rush Limbaugh are in a bar. DeMint and Limbaugh are talking about the amount of control they have over that "rank amateur" Obama, while Walsh remains quiet.

    After a while, DeMint turns to Walsh and asks "Well, what about you, what sort of control do you have over that Kenyan impostor?"

    Walsh says "I'll tell you. Just the other night, that Muslim socialist came into the bedroom of my D.C. apartment on his hands and knees." DeMint and Limblob were amazed. "What happened then?" "Obama said 'Walsh, get out from under the bed and fight like a man!'"

    Today's GOP: Blowhard wussies

  • karen marie on September 06, 2011 3:08 PM:

    I think Republicans keep up with this kind of talk because it polls well with their base. I have been shocked to hear this stuff repeated -- especially about the "need" for drug-testing benefit recipients, whether unemployment or "welfare" -- by many of my friends who identify as Republican, none of whom are doing particularly well themselves.

    It seems that the worse off people are doing, the more resentful they are that others are perceived to be getting undeserved help while they struggle.

  • square1 on September 06, 2011 3:08 PM:

    This is the danger for Democrats in echoing GOP talking points.

    DeMint is painfully, painfully stupid. There is no evidence to support his mishmash of lucky-duckyism, deregulatory fervor, and belief in the confidence fairy. No, nothing that President Obama has ever said about the economy is as stupid as what DeMint may be saying. But, merely by touching on these themes -- that business needs more "certainty" and that there is too much business regulation -- the President has needlessly invited the public to wonder whether agrees with idiots like DeMint.

    If the President intends to present himself in 2012 as a bulwark against GOP madness, he really needs to stop sounding anything like them.

  • SYSPROG on September 06, 2011 3:11 PM:

    OK let's see. Blake Farenthold born 1961...yep HE attended a state University that subsidized tuition...Oh and Heller graduated from U of So. CA...born 1960...totally SUBSIDIZED by that dreaded Federal Government...oh looky here...he has been in 'guvmint' since 1990...21 years sucking at the government teat. I just got laid off and I am not some flippin' slacker. Instead, I am a result of the lack of a JOBS PLAN that you GOPpers touted to get elected in 2010. You don't go from paying in all your flippin' life, saving in a 401K, working in your communities, voting in elections to being a 'slacker' in a year or two. What we REALLY need is more of these 'slackers' picking up a job in Congress and then screaming at these aholes on CSPAN...Alan Grayson where ARE you???

  • Ron Byers on September 06, 2011 3:13 PM:

    For generations it has been settled law that all Americans over the age of sufferage can vote. I suspect that in the coming months we will see a Republican effort to limit sufferage to those who can prove they pay taxes. The SOBs are trying to reduce all of us to serfs and we are letting it happen.

  • Ron Byers on September 06, 2011 3:23 PM:

    I heard something at lunch today that we should consider when we talk about reducing regulations. The Home Depot in Joplin, Missouri, was destroyed by the May 22, 2011 tornado. Before the tornado Home Depot had moved all of its staff and its customers to the designated area in the store. That designated area was particularly hard hit. Several people died. It turns out the concrete was substandard. It failed post tornado testing. I guess the victims families can sue, maybe, but I don't think the victims are going to get their lives back.

    The point is government regulations and standards are often necessary to protect people like you and me. When DeMintor says that he wants to reduce government regulations he is really saying you and I don't deserve protection from greedy corporate types trying to squeeze another dollar out of us.

  • Kathryn on September 06, 2011 4:00 PM:

    Anybody who hates government should be disqualified from running for government office, since that won't happen, any voter with a smidgen of common sense should avoid voting for such a candidate. It's a mystery that so many continue to vote for candidates who hate the job they are running for and promise to do all in their power to diminish/destroy that job. Would any employer hire such an applicant? Don't think so.

    The Tea Party freshmen have proven what a bad idea it is to hire people who hate the job they're seeking. Just preaching to the choir, I guess but it does seem pretty basic.

  • PaulW on September 06, 2011 4:00 PM:

    “I have talked to a lot of businesses in South Carolina who can’t get employees to come back to work because they are getting unemployment and they’re getting food stamps and they say, ‘Call me when unemployment runs out.’"

    Which businesses are running into that? Who out there among the unemployed are saying that they're getting more out of food stamps and unemployment benefits than they would from being employed?!

    This is, right now, a strawman argument: DeMint did not name names, he did not bring up examples of a particular company trying to hire and getting rebuffed. He's just saying off-the-cuff that the unemployed don't want to be employed.

    FUCK YOU DEMINT. I don't believe a damn word you're saying.

    I AM unemployed. I have been job-hunting for two years now. My unemployment benefits don't cover enough of what I have to live on from month-to-month: my parents are helping with a mortgage I can't close on a house that's worth currently $10k less than that mortgage. I don't know of any of my fellow unemployed who turned down a job offer because it was less than what the benefits were worth: THAT'S BECAUSE THE BENEFITS BARELY PAY FOR ANYTHING. A job - even part-time - pays better.

    I send in resumes everywhere for a range of jobs that my skills cover - in part because I have to, the law now requires at least 5 apps a week, but mostly because I'm trying desperately to get back onto my own two feet and pay my own way. Going back to college for more classes is out of the question: I've already used up my WIA for certification in a career that just got hit hard in the past year or so where the potential employers can now ask for higher-level skills.

    If I ever run into DeMint, I am going to tell him EXACTLY what the hell is going on out here in this job market, and I am going to ask him which companies are getting rebuffed for whichever positions, so that way I can go to those companies and say "Hire me. As long as the job isn't cleaning out toilets or working in a meat factory, I will take it."

    People are turning down job openings?! In THIS economy? I call BULLSHIT, DeMint. I'm calling it.

  • Trollop on September 06, 2011 4:40 PM:

    This is not going to end well..

    Demented is such a rotten twat, why he is still breathing air is the only question worth fixing.

  • golack on September 06, 2011 4:49 PM:

    Didn't they just past a bill targeting illegal immigrants in S. Carolina--then lost a ton of money in the agriculture sector because migrant workers skipped that state? The talk was they could use welfare recipients or unemployed to do that job...Of course it's only temporary, does not pay enough to cover, say, childcare, barely enough for transportation, and certainly won't pay enough to let you pay down a mortgage, and it will trap you--it would be really hard to work your way up and out.

    Basically if people don't accept serf like conditions, they're ungrateful.

  • Cornhusker on September 06, 2011 6:56 PM:

    If a person on unemployment refuses to take a job, they can be reported and their benefits can be revoked. At least I believe that's how it works in some states.

    If a business isn't able to attract workers then that business isn't offering enough pay and/or it's not adequately protecting its workforce. Employers are not entitled to cheap labor - nor are they entitled to abuse their workforce.

    I like the idea of funneling at least some unemployment benefits through locally owned small businesses. But give the unemployed a choice as to which type of skill they'd like to learn / use. The small businesses would then interview from a list. After all... if both parties aren't on board, the experience won't be positive. Not everyone is cut out to work construction, for example.

  • LA Crystal on September 06, 2011 9:04 PM:

    Surely not all the 9% unemployed in this country are Democrats. It seems to me that this approach would surely alienate a few million former Republican voters. It must be that they calculate those losses are offset by independents and Republicans who love to scapegoat the unfortunate and vulnerable.

    What an empty little prop for their apparently fragile egos and victimhood.

  • Susan on September 07, 2011 9:39 AM:

    DeMint is lying. If a claimant turns down "suitable work" s/he loses benefits immediately and the disqualification stays until s/he goes back to work. Employers call us (the unemployment office) all the time to report that a claimant has turned down a job. We take action on every case.

  • Rugosa on September 07, 2011 9:55 AM:

    LA Crystal -

    Working-class red-state voters support Republicans because if they're unemployed, it's because the economy sucks. If you're unemployed, it's because you are a lazy slacker. It is a classic example of cognizant dissonance.