I’m a Republican. I’m also a compassionate conservative.
That’s why I’m troubled by remarks this week by Maine Gov. Paul LePage suggesting that the unemployed are jobless by choice.
“To all you able-bodied people out there,” he said, during a speech at his state party convention, “Get off the couch, and get yourself a job.”
Well, I understand that the cost of providing unemployment benefits to Maine’s 51,000 jobless is taxing the state’s treasury.
But, I simply don’t believe that most of those out of work in the Pine Tree State– including the able-bodied of whom LePage spoke – prefer government welfare to a full-time job.
LePage is no compassionate conservative. If he were, he would sympathize with the out-of-work. And he would hold the party of Obama accountable for the nation’s jobless recovery.
Indeed, in 2009, Democrats enacted the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the massive $825 billion economic stimulus package that was supposed to create millions of jobs and keep the nation’s unemployment rate below 8 percent.
Three years later, the stimulus has proven a complete failure. The unemployment rate has topped 8 percent a record 38 straight months (and counting). And there are today 740,000 fewer jobs in post-recession America than when Obama moved into the White House.
A close look at U.S. Labor Department’s April jobs report reveals a labor market that remains in the worst shape since the Great Depression.
Some 12.5 million Americans were officially counted as unemployed. Of those, some 5.1 million were categorized as “long-term unemployed,” meaning they were out of work a half-year or more.
Another 7.9 million Americans were underemployed. They held part-time jobs because they couldn’t find full-time positions.
Then there were 2.4 million persons identified as “marginally attached to the labor force.” They wanted and were available for work, had looked for a job sometime in the previous 12 months, but had not searched for work in the four weeks prior to the jobs survey.
Nearly 1 million of the marginally attached were considered “discouraged workers,” having given up hope of finding work
When you add the officially unemployed to the underemployed and the marginally attached, you come up with 22.8 million Americans lacking gainful employment.
It is a statistical portrait of pain, hardship and loss. It should move people of faith to compassion for those seeking work. Not to contempt.
That’s why Gov. LePage’s remarks have done damage to the GOP. It makes it appear that those of us who are Republicans lack sympathy for those who are unemployed through no fault of their own; who are victims of the jobless recovery.