Mitt Romney Is Just Like You. He Is Forbidden to Sleep Under Bridges

Currently, about five unemployed people are looking for work for each job opening in the U.S. That basically means that for every job that gets filled, there are four people who didn’t get the job no matter how hard they tried, no matter how polished their resume, no matter how much they networked. Whatever those four people might have done to get the job simply didn’t matter because there just aren’t enough jobs to go around. Knowing that helps to explain why Mitt Romney got so much grief last week when he seemed to joke about unemployment.

You may recall that Romney was campaigning in a coffee shop in Florida. After listening to some unemployed citizens describe the challenges they faced looking for work, Romney brightly offered up that he, too, was unemployed. Romney’s critics suggested it was a grossly insensitive remark to make face-to-face with those who were struggling. Coming as it did, from a man whose net worth is about $200 million. It seems possible that Romney might not be feeling the same pain as those who may lose their health insurance, their home, their life savings, and the chance for their kids to go to college if he doesn’t get a job soon. It was not a particularly effective “I feel your pain” moment for Mr. Romney. In fact, it seemed just short of suggesting to those without bread that maybe they should just eat cake.

But it could have been an even worse moment for the former Governor if he had reminded those struggling unemployed supporters of his of the remarks he made in an editorial in USA Today about six months ago: “The indisputable fact is that unemployment benefits, despite a web of regulations, actually serve to discourage some individuals from taking jobs.” After all, what the heck were those unemployed people doing lolling about in a coffee shop talking to Mitt Romney when they could have been out looking for work?

For those unemployed people Romney was speaking to in Florida, the maximum amount of unemployment insurance is $275 a week. That may not be much real help to someone who is sitting on $200 million in net worth. But it helps a little to keep food on the table and the wolf from the door for people like Tom Yarranton.

Tom Yarranton, 55, was one of the people in that coffee shop that morning. After 31 years as an internal auditor at a manufacturing company, Yarranton lost his job in March 2010.

Romney’s op-ed suggests that he believes that people like Tom, who has worked his entire adult life, is prone to get a bit lazy and become dissuaded from making the best possible effort to find a job if he receives the princely sum of $275 a week. I suspect Yarranton would disagree.

The way people like Romney and the right wing in general seem to think about life is the mirror image of the narrator of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Rich Boy, which begins: ”Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me.”

The right-wing version of this tale goes along the lines of “Let me tell you about the poor and the middle class. They are different from you and me. They tend to be lazy and tend to whine. The working class doesn’t really work. They have no ambition or self-respect. And they are always wanting handouts.”

Those same right-wing types then tend to go on about “American Exceptionalism.” Apparently, what they mean by that is that America is great — except for most of the people in it.

In 1894, the right wing’s brand of economic liberty was in full flower. France would not begin its system of unemployment insurance until 1905. Anatole France then observed: “The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread.” Or as Mr. Romney might see it today: “Please, vote for me because I am just like you. I, too, am forbidden to sleep under bridges.”

Good luck getting that big job you want, sir.

  • Dave

    Mr. Nolan,

    You are obviously a left winger. Let’s look at this objectively (I know it will probably be a first for you). You say you suspect that Mr. Yarranton would disagree about being lazy and not finding a job because he gets $275/wk.

    I know people just like this that complain about how low the UI is and complain that they cannot find a job. Yet their “job searching” is going online an hour a day, thumbing through the news paper and if they do not see that “perfect” job their not interested.

    What is this Mr. Yarranton doing at the coffee shop again? Instead of looking for a job?

    I lost my job last fall and instead of complaining about it I found anything that would keep me going. Let me explain, because this is somthing I can guarantee a Mr. Yarranton would not do to be working. Not only did I lose my job but the tranny in my car went and I did not have the money to have it repaired. So I found any job I could. And then found a second one. All throughout the winter I biked(yes I mean a bicycle!) to my first job which was from 7am to 4pm went home slept and then biked to my second job from 10:30 to 6:30. All while making 50% less at these two jobs then my previous one!

    You want to know why a Mr. Yarranton would never go about this type of action just to get back on his feet. And why You, Mr. Nolan, are completly wrong with your sarcastic comment of him being ok with $275/wk? Because people like him think of it this way. “I could go get a measly job for $10/hr, but after all the taxes and health coverage, that $400/wk is going to be less than the $275. Might as well just stay at home and wait until I find the “perfect” job. Well hate to break it but that “perfect” or ideal job is not just around the corner. But they do not want to subject themselves to a “lower” job or position then they are use to. SO this is why you, Mr. Nolan, are DEAD WRONG. I guarentee that although he “says” he is not ok with the $275 he has calculated that it is better than real hard work for the same money. God forbid he loses face to collegues and friends because he’s delivering pizzas, no no it is much easier to sit at home, get your $275, and bitch to everyone that you’re not working because of the economy.

    Mr. Nolan I hope you never lose this job, because I’m sure I’ll never see you washing toilets somewhere to make ends meet. Just complain about the economy instead.

  • Barry Nolan

    Dear Dave,
    First let me say I admire your work ethic and your perseverance. It is truly admirable. However you did seem to skip over reading the first paragraph. There are simply far more people out of work than there are jobs. And no matter what some people do – they will not find work. In the past, the solution was to do nothing – let families lose their homes – go without food – sleep under bridges. For a rich and civilized country – that just seemed morally indefensible. So, we joined the rest of the developed nations in providing UEI.

    If you doubt the job numbers I am quoting – you can go to the BLS site – the JOLTS data has the number of job openings – and the monthly jobs report has the number of unemployed workers actively seeking jobs.
    JOLTS:
    http://data.bls.gov/timeseries/JTS00000000JOL

    Total unemployed:
    http://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.nr0.htm

    The math is quite cruel. But it is undeniable. Some people – no matter what they do – no matter their work ethic – can not find a job. And most people believe that is would be the wrong policy for a rich country to follow – to simply let those folks starve – beg – or sleep under bridges.

  • Tricia

    Dear Barry —
    I’m a 59 year old woman who has worked all of my life. I have been unemployed the last year.

    Good for Dave that he was able to find work but I can tell you even jobs like his are hard to come by. I would be happy to earn less than my last job. I am certainly not sitting in any fat cat seat with my soon to run-out unemployment. I worry every day as I try to maintain a positive attitude, track my depleting savings, keep looking for work, and offer to do all types of jobs I have no desire to do. There is no room for pride here and there is certainly no room for laziness.

    I suggest some people be grateful if they were able to turn a small corner and try not to be quite so judgmental of others who are still struggling.

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