Unemployed Are Lazy? Boehner’s Insensitive Elitism


House Speaker John Boehner implied at a recent appearance that unemployed people are lazy, an insensitive comment displaying true arrogance and elitism. Whether intended or not, he showed an amazing lack of caring and callousness toward Americans who have lost their jobs and in financial difficulty.

Boehner was asked about a poverty plan Representative Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., has been touting. Instead, Boehner’s answer showed his less than favorable attitude toward the unemployed. Witnesses report that he thinks they believe “I really don’t have to work…I think I’d just rather sit around.”

Really? Is that what he really thinks the 9.6 million people who are out of work and seeking jobs (almost 3 million of which have been unemployed at least six months) think? The reality is that unemployment is still about three times the pre-recession level and only 26 percent of jobless Americans are receiving unemployment payments since Congress eliminated the long-term unemployment benefits.

Apparently Boehner and his ilk believe those who cannot find a job must be at fault or not really trying. Otherwise, they clearly would “rather sit around” than work. Does anyone think it is possible to make ends meet on unemployment – who are they kidding? In addition, Boehner clearly does not know that the long-term unemployment benefits program required recipients to report their job-hunting efforts biweekly, which has been proven to keep people focused on job hunting.

There are reportedly two job seekers for every job opening. The people over 50 laid off in the recession and those who graduated from college in recent years who did find jobs were the lucky ones, but the odds are they are underemployed or (if they had a lot of experience they probably took considerable cuts in pay).

The blame the victim comment is offensive to the unemployed and the working. There are people who are working and retired in place or doing little, such as Boehner. And, there are people sending out resume after resume, filling out countless applications, or trying to use transferrable skills in a new profession, like writing for online publications.

More than 30 years ago, then-California Governor Jerry Brown told a college class that “25 percent of you will be working in jobs that have not been invented yet,” a comment that was very prescient before the Internet age changed whole industries. What he did not predict (and has had to deal with as now-California Governor Brown) is that another quarter of the people in the room probably settled into jobs that allowed their skills to become rusty and a percentage of them got laid off.

In fairness, Boehner has also reportedly said “It’s our obligation to help provide the tools for (the unemployed) to use to help bring them into the mainstream.” But part of those tools needs to be money to live on. There can be terms tied to it, like the requirement to demonstrate that the person is really looking for a job, or classes to attend.

While, it is easy to dismiss Boehner’s insensitive, elitism remarks that implied the unemployed are lazy as right versus left. But, it is really a matter of right versus wrong.

Opinion by Dyanne Weiss

New York Times
Christian Science Monitor

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