The trick to fixing the toughest job market since the Great Depression is to send jobless Americans to bed without supper, according to Rep. Steve King (R-IA).
Speaking in Charleston, South Carolina on Monday, after arguing that there are over 100 million Americans not even trying to find work, King said, “If you had six kids and a third of your kids would say, ‘I’m not doing the chores, mom… If any of them say I refuse, I’m not gonna participate, I’m not gonna contribute to the American GDP, pretty soon those kids would be on the ‘you get to eat after you do the work,’ not just in hopes that you might one day do the work.” After a brief diversion into immigration reform, King added, “I wanna see more Americans step up.”
Watch King’s comments, beginning at the 4:00 mark of this video:
But the unemployed, unlike the shiftless children King imagines them to be, seek jobs against huge obstacles. There are currently three job seekers for every job opening in the country — and that is the lowest that ratio has been in years. The severity of the Great Recession has made long-term unemployment far more common than in previous economic downturns, and being unemployed for nine months has the same impact on your odds of getting hired as losing four full years of experience from a résumé. The longer a person’s jobless stint, the worse her odds of ending it become. Millions of the people King disparaged as lazy brats on Monday night have gone back to school in hopes of bettering their job prospects, have retired early after failing to find work, or been looking for jobs for three years without success.
If the analogy is new, the core belief is not. King famously said in 2011 that America has become “a nation of slackers” due to social safety net programs. That view is broadly shared within the conservative media and conservative political movement. Earlier this summer, other congressional Republicans justified their support for food stamp cuts through an erroneous citation of the Bible which they claimed instructs the faithful not to feed anyone who doesn’t work. Last year, presidential candidate Mitt Romney told a private gathering of supporters that half the country is so dependent on government, “I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”