Poor of wallet, not of spirit

Gillian Seaman, The Rational Component

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I will freely admit that, given the obscene amount of homework I am regularly assigned, I don’t have a lot of time to consistently peruse the news. I am much more likely to be found indulging in brain candy by watching the “Jersey Shore” and anything on Bravo than reading the New York Times. But even with my limited exposure to any kind of decent media, I have noticed something rather odd. People who are suffering due to this economy seem to be subject to an astounding amount of unwarranted derision

As of July 2010, the unemployment rate for Ohio stood at 10.3 percent. There is no way to justify or mitigate the significance of that number. Considering that the unemployment rate in Ohio for September 2009 was 7.3 percent, that would suggest something other than the utter ineptitude of the work force is the cause of such an increase.

But watching various talking heads on TV or listening to them on the radio seems to suggest that the reason unemployment is so high is because people are lazy incompetents. The majority of the unemployed are simply not looking for jobs hard enough. Not only are the majority of the unemployed lazy, they are also abusing their unemployment benefits, the lethargic bums. Indeed, the unemployment benefits are so enticing that they no longer even look for jobs. They are thriving off of these benefits while good hard-working Americans go to their jobs in the morning. Cue indignation and derision from the Right.

Perpetuators of this alternate reality like Glenn Beck and Ben Stein seem to truly believe that the unemployed are truly despicable, pathetic people. When Glenn Beck addressed the issue of individuals who exhausted their unemployment in late August, he commented, “Some of these people, I bet you’d be ashamed to call them Americans.” In Ben Stein’s piece for The American Spectator, he writes that “people who have been laid off and cannot find work are generally people with poor work habits and poor personalities.” He goes on to snarkily comment that high schools should offer courses on “how to get along,” so students can graduate with the knowledge that work involves work and not play.

Assuming that the 10.3 percent of individuals in Ohio who are unemployed are incompetent and deserving of their unemployed status does provide a sort of odd comfort, however. Insisting that the unemployed in Ohio and across the nation are simply doddering fools who deserved to lose their jobs grants us the security of “this can never happen to me.”

It is true that those individuals who lack a high school or college education are more likely to be among the ranks of the unemployed (though I believe the lack of a degree should not suggest any degree of ineptitude or inability). But the simple fact is, unemployment can happen to everyone regardless of race, level of education, socioeconomic status, and dare I say it, personality type. All kinds of people lose their jobs every day. People with doctorates and masters degrees, people who live in rich suburbs and are members of the local country club lose their jobs.

Even if the majority of the unemployed somehow fit the stereotype that Beck, Stein and others like them seek to promote, why does that still give those individuals license to taunt others in dire economic straights? What happened to the golden rule?

Oh that’s right. Mommy had to sell the gold for food because she was laid off and her unemployment only covered her mortgage payment for the month.