Blaming the unemployed

Updated

A few months ago, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett (R) was asked about his poor record on job creation after three years in office. Corbett offered a variety of explanations for his record, including this gem: “[T]here are many employers that say we’re looking for people but we can’t find anybody that has passed a drug test, a lot of them.”

As a rule, this isn’t exactly a political winner. For one thing, it’s factually wrong. For another, accusing the jobless of being drug addicts tends to offend those struggling to find work.

But Corbett isn’t the only one who’s pushing this argument. Rep. Dave Joyce (R-Ohio) argued last week in a speech to a local Chamber of Commerce that there are “3 million jobs every month in this country that go unfilled.” The congressman thinks he knows why.

“And the trouble is, it’s because they either can’t find people to come to work sober, daily, drug-free and want to learn the necessary skills going forward to be able to do those jobs,” he added.

It’s puzzling why elected officials would say things like this out loud. If Joyce and his Republican colleagues in Congress have an explanation for why they’ve done so little to create jobs in the United States, they should certainly make their pitch. But to say to the country in a time of high unemployment, “Too many of you are lazy drug addicts” strikes me as more than a little tone-deaf.

[W]hen asked by The Huffington Post for data on his assertion that businesses can’t find unemployed workers to hire who are sober or drug-free, Joyce’s spokeswoman said the congressman was relying on anecdotes from business owners.

Oh, well in that case, there’s no problem?

Let’s make this plain: it’s time to stop blaming Americans for high unemployment.

There are millions of folks looking for work right now, and (a) the overwhelming majority of them are not substance abusers; (b) they’re not lazy; and (c) their job prospects would improve if Congress stopped making the job market worse on purpose.

There’s certainly room for a policy debate about structural vs. cyclical unemployment, but Joyce’s overly simplistic assessment of job vacancies just isn’t constructive.

It does help explain, though, why so many Republican policymakers are interested in government-mandated drug tests.

Unemployment and Dave Joyce

Blaming the unemployed

Updated