6 Ways the Rich Are Waging a Class War Against the American People
Continued from previous page
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... We've gotta get this country back to work and get those people out of the slacker rolls and onto the employed rolls.
Here, too, we have a shining gem of wrongness. And a common one – the belief that unemployment benefits discourage people from working is widespread on the Right.
Here's a simple reality-check: there are no jobs! According to the Economic Policy Institute, “there are 6.9 million fewer jobs today than there were in December 2007.” Of course, the working-age population has grown by over 4 million in that same time. Do the math. As Mike Thornton noted on AlterNet, when you add people who are working a part-time gig but want a full-time job to the unemployed, you get 25.4 million workers vying for 3.2 million full-time job openings, “or 8 unemployed or underemployed workers per job.”
This is more of the same: King's painting a picture of the undeserving poor living the good life on the tab of hard-working Americans. So it's worth noting that among developed countries, the US offers some of the stingiest unemployment benefits around – only two countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) replaced a smaller share of a worker's earnings than the U.S. in 2004, and only the Czech Republic offered unemployment coverage for a shorter time.
In 2008, those unemployed Americans who qualified for benefits got $293 per week, or about 35 percent of their lost income, and that's why conservative spin that the jobless are living it up on their unemployment checks instead of trying to find work is so ludicrous. (There is, however, some evidence that this is actually true in places like Scandinavia, where people who lose their jobs still take in 70 percent or more of their income, and in some cases can do so for an unlimited amount of time.)
King drives his point home using a classic tactic: take big numbers out of context to distort reality. There are in fact 85 million “Americans that are of working age but are simply not in the workforce,” and he would have you believe they're all “slackers.” But that figure includes stay-at-home spouses, people who live off of investment income rather than a job, entrepenuers, and of course the disabled and ill – people who can't work. Back in January 2001, when the unemployment rate was just 4.2 percent, there were 69 million working-age adults who weren't in the labor force. And the working-age population has grown by about 22 million since then.
And, of course, Nancy Pelosi was right that unemployment benefits have a huge amount of stimulus bang-for-the-buck -- King is not only a brazen class warrior, he's also economically illiterate.
3. You Can't Really Be Poor if You Have a Color TV!
Is it not the height of class war to make a conscious effort to erase the poor from the public's view? That has been a longterm project on the Right, and one of the classic, if shopworn arguments goes like this: back in the 1930s (or 1950s, or 1970s, depending on the speaker), most poor people didn't own color TVs, but now 97 percent of them do! So the poor really should stop bitching – they're living the high life!
Now, as of this writing, Craigslist offers the following items for free in the San Francisco Bay area: several TVs, multiple armchairs, a set of swivel bar stools, a stainless steel refrigerator, a Nordictrak elliptical trainer, a bunch of sofas and bed-sets – including a “like new” leather couch – a countertop grill, a ”beautiful pine armoir” and some “Hydro Massage Soaking Tub and Sinks.” Those are just the listings posted in one morning. We create a lot of goods and people want the shiniest, newest things, so there are a ton of obsolete but still functional items like TVs and washer-dryers out there that one can get for nothing or next to nothing.