Tea Party Rep. Steve King (R-IA) took to the House floor yesterday to give a diatribe against large swaths of of the social safety net, from food stamps to heating fuel subsidies, but reserved particular disdain for unemployment insurance, which he dismissed as “welfare for people that won’t work.” Via Political Correction:
KING: The United States of America borrows money and hands it to people and tells them, you don’t have to work for this. You don’t have to produce anything for this. We just want you to spend it. [...]
The former speaker of the House, Speaker Pelosi, has consistently said that unemployment checks are one of those reliable and immediate forms of economy recovery. [...] The 80 million Americans that are of working age but are simply not in the workforce need to be put to work. We can’t have a nation of slackers and then have me have to sit in the Judiciary Committee listening to them argue that there’s work that Americans won’t do, so we have to import people to do the work that Americans won’t do, and borrow money to pay the welfare for people that won’t work. That is a foolish thing for a nation to do. We’ve gotta get this country back to work and get those people out of the slacker rolls and onto the employed rolls.
King’s belief that people collecting unemployment checks are merely lazy is startingly common among conservatives, but it is as wrong as it is offensive to the million of Americans who are out of work by no choice of their own. In reality, there are 4.32 unemployed people for every job opening in the country, so even if every opening was filled, there would still be millions of people lacking employment.
Moreover, unemployment benefits are hardly generous, require beneficiaries to be actively searching for work, and run out after a certain period of time, so it’s unlikely someone would chose to remain unemployed. In fact, research by the San Francisco Federal Reserve has found that workers who qualify for unemployment benefits stay unemployed just 1.6 weeks longer than those who do not qualify for such benefits.
King calling unemployed Americans “slackers” is almost as bad as Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-TX) compared the jobless to alcoholics and drug addicts.