Sunday, July 13, 2014

Right-Wing Lies vs. New Deal Truth (part 3 of 10): "The unemployed are lazy!!!"

(New Deal policymakers didn't spend their days fantasizing about how to better insult the unemployed. Instead, they created projects for the unemployed to work on--projects that we still enjoy & utilize today. WPA poster, courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.)   

People who lost their jobs during the Great Recession, and have had trouble finding work again, have faced a merciless onslaught of insults from the political right. They've been called every name in the book: "Parasites," "moochers," "takers," "lazy good-for-nothings," and so on.

Republican talking-head Ben Stein summed up the disgust that the political right has for laid-off Americans when he wrote: "The people who have been laid off and cannot find work are generally people with poor work habits and poor general, as I survey the ranks of those who are unemployed, I see people who have overbearing and unpleasant personalities and/or who do not know how to do a day’s work."

Of course, we know that right-wing hatred of the jobless is steeped in hypocrisy because, when they criticize President Obama, they say, "He's destroying the economy, where are the jobs??" But, when they criticize the unemployed, they say, "There's plenty of jobs out there, get off the couch!!" But hatred is a satisfying & soothing emotion for many people, and so this hypocrisy gets a free pass from many American voters.

(New Deal policymakers felt that, when given opportunities instead of insults, unemployed Americans would perform well. WPA workers honored this belief by creating or improving 650,000 miles of roads, laying 16,000 miles of new waterlines, building nearly 6,000 new schools, and much more. WPA poster, image courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.)

The reason jobless Americans are having a hard time finding employment is not because they are lazy, but because there are far more job seekers than job openings. For example, in November of 2013, it was reported that "More than 23,000 people are vying for only 600 job openings at (Walmart)" (see "It's Easier To Get Into Harvard Than To Get A Job At These Walmarts").

For some reason, the political right simply can't fathom the possibility that there are more working-age adults than jobs. Unless, again, they're criticizing Obama. Then they wholeheartedly believe it.

Stereotyping the unemployed as "lazy," as the political right is so fond of doing, has consequences. Some percentage of employers will no doubt internalize this message and thus avoid hiring the so-called "lazy unemployed people." And, indeed, empirical research has shown that the jobless are discriminated against by employers (see, e.g., "Unemployed Face Discrimination Just One Month After Losing Their Jobs, Report Says").

(New Deal policymakers felt that lifting the jobless up, instead of stomping on them, was a better & more ethical policy response to unemployment. What do you think? WPA poster, courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.)

New Deal policymakers realized that what most jobless Americans need are jobs. And so, through programs like the WPA, CWA, CCC, and NYA, they gave them jobs. And what ensued was the largest and most successful expansion & improvement of infrastructure in American history. This infrastructure work provided the backbone for our nation's post-World War II economic boom. The American economy expanded along New Deal roads, across New Deal bridges, and out of New Deal airports. And, as if this were not enough, we are still enjoying & utilizing much of this work today (see, e.g., the Living New Deal). Even Ronald Reagan praised the infrastructure work of the WPA. But most right-wing politicians don't want you to know this history. They're scoring way too many political points by casting the unemployed as "parasites." It's a vote cow that they don't want to give up. This is probably why they blocked legislation that would have created a public works program for unemployed veterans. To them, jobless veterans are much more valuable as unemployed punching bags.

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