Rush Limbaugh Thinks the Unemployed Need to Suffer More
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When official unemployment's been over 8 percent for over three years, it can be hard to keep focused on the crisis. The endless repetition of jobs statistics can become numbing. But the people struggling every day with the realities of joblessness don't need the reminder. They're living the crisis, day in and day out.
So imagine how they felt when Rush Limbaugh, self-proclaimed patron saint of the everyday Joe who's being kept down by the Man (never mind that in his case the Man is represented by liberals who might want to, you know, create jobs or raise the minimum wage) declared this week:
“The sad truth is that employment is not pivotal...No job, no employment, no pain. For a whole heck of a lot of people whose expectations for themselves are not very high....There are no jobs, and yet they're still eating. I'm telling you, there's a new reality out there....Because it's not resulting in that much pain, not nearly as much as it used to....The so-called victims of the unemployment circumstance are not suffering as unemployed people in the past did.”
We are supposed to be cheered, I suppose, that Limbaugh says, “Not that I want them to!” Because of course Rush wouldn't actually be wishing suffering on those people “whose expectations for themselves are not very high.”
Where did all this come from? Limbaugh's warning Mitt Romney that he won't be able to win the election on jobs by continuing to point out the high unemployment rate. And not because Romney's personal record is one of slashing and burning jobs wherever he went. No, Limbaugh thinks that unemployment is still high because those unemployed folks are being coddled with food stamps and unemployment checks.
His evidence for this? Stories that retail sales are down because unemployment checks are running out, record numbers depending on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits (SNAP, formerly food stamps), and the fact that the unemployed still have cars.
This is a variation, of course, on the age-old theme of right-wing populists like Limbaugh, who make their own (astronomically large) salaries by convincing their listeners that they're paying taxes solely to keep poor people in big-screen TVs and Cadillacs. In the '90s it was the “welfare queen,” now it's the long-term unemployed, coasting by on their benefits, perfectly happy never to work again. And of course, happy to vote for Barack Obama, the man who, in Limbaugh's twisted storyline, both wrecked their jobs and then gave them handouts so they could stay unemployed.
It's impressive that right-wingers manage to both blame “elites” like the president and the unemployed themselves for their circumstances, but that's exactly what they do. In any case, it's all the worst kind of propaganda in that it reduces the very real, deep and ongoing crisis in the U.S. to political point-scoring on the backs of the poor -- who, despite Limbaugh's bluster, are in fact feeling the pain acutely.
Let's look at some stories of the long-term unemployed, shall we?
"Every day is a struggle," J.R. Childress told Business Insider in February. The 53-year-old has been laid off twice since 2009, and at the time of the article had been unemployed for 10 months. "The struggle is the unknown. You've worked your way up the ladder and you get to a point in life and a position in work where you're comfortable ... then all of a sudden everything goes away. It's like being thrown into a hole and you're climbing to get up, but it's greased. There's no way of getting out."