Good for Keith Olbermann for taking on Newt Gingrich's ugly characterization of people on unemployment as slackers for refusing to take jobs that would actually put them deeper in the hole. Susie Madrak wrote about the Wall Street Journal article referred to in this segment on Countdown last night where employers were complaining that they have jobs, but people aren't taking them.
Newt Gingrich then piled on to the deadbeat drumbeat of the Republicans with this little salvo:
For instance, the extension of unemployment benefits has given people a perverse incentive to stay on unemployment rather than accept a job. The part-owner of a machine parts company, Mechanical Devices, is looking for as many as 40 new engineers, but is quoted in the article as saying many applicants at job fairs were “just going through the motions so they could collect their unemployment checks.” The article also quotes an engineer who admits he turned down more than a dozen offers because the salary would have been less than he made on welfare.
This story encapsulates the problem of the long-term unemployed. The depth and length of this recession is at risk of creating a permanent pool of unemployed Americans, who get so used to being unproductive that they are willing to accept welfare indefinitely instead of taking a job.
I would just like to say this to Newt directly: Screw you, idiot. The nerve of this man to point his finger at me and people like me is just infuriating. Because if anyone represents a welfare queen, it's Newt Gingrich.
Newt Gingrich lives on the donations of wealthy patrons, similar to a courtesan. He flies on private jets with those donations, rents his limos with those donations, eats at exclusive restaurants with those donations, and spews crap at people who paid for over 30 years into unemployment insurance and calls them welfare queens.
Who's the welfare queen? The guy who uses the safety net he paid for, or the guy who takes millions of dollars from oil companies, insurance companies, and other corporate interests to live high on the hog while doing nothing other than pointing his fingers at others?
Screw that. And screw him.
Full transcript of the Olbermann segment, where the man referred to in the WSJ article says basically the same thing in nicer words follows.
OLBERMANN: Good evening from New York. When it came time to invade, Republicans used cherry-picked intelligence for the war in Iraq. Now they're using cherry-picked intelligence to wage war on the middle class. In our fifth story, without the cloak of national security to hide behind, Republicans are about to meet one member of the middle class who is fighting back. We asked him to come on tonight, because it is the first time in this "blame the unemployed" strategy from the right that we can recall Republicans targeting an individual American. For months, Republican politicians have argued that extending unemployment benefits will slow job growth, because Americans would rather take a handout.
GREGG: You're clearly going to dampen the capacity of that growth if you basically keep an economy which encourages people to, rather than go out and look for work, to stay on unemployment.
KYL: Continuing to pay people unemployment compensation is a disincentive for them to seek new work.
OLBERMANN: Two Republican candidates for Senate have gone further and said that Americans should start accepting lower salaries.
JOHNSON: When you continue to extend unemployment benefits, people really don't have the incentive to go take other jobs. you know, they'll just wait the system out until their benefits run out, then they'll go out and take, probably not as high-paying jobs as they would like to take, but that's how you have to get back to work.
ANGLE: you can make more money on unemployment than you can going down and getting one of those jobs that is an honest job, but it doesn't pay as much. and so that's what's happened to us, is that we have put in so much entitlement into our government that we really have spoiled our citizenry.
OLBERMANN: It is the continuation of president bush's economic philosophy that american workers into their old age, that working, you know, three jobs just to make ends meet is fantastic.
WOMAN: I'm a divorced single mother with three grown adult children. I have one child, Robby, who is mentally challenged, and I have two daughters.
GEO W. BUSH: Fantastic. I mean, we are living longer and people are working longer, and the truth of the matter is, elderly baby boomers have got a lot to offer to our society. and we shouldn't think about giving up our responsibilities in society. Isn't that right?
WOMAN: That's right. ?
BUSH: You don't have to worry.
WOMAN: That's good, because i work three jobs and i feel like i contribute --
BUSH: you work three jobs?
WOMAN: three jobs, yes.
BUSH: uniquely American, isn't it? I mean, that is fantastic that you're doing that.
WOMAN: Yes. thank you.
BUSH: Get any sleep?
WOMAN: Not much. Not much.
OLBERMANN: But now as we mentioned, Republicans have targeted one individual American who's struggling to make ends meet and held him up as part of the problem.
Former house speaker Newt Gingrich writing yesterday,
" The extension of unemployment benefits has given people a perverse incentive to stay on unemployment rather than accept a job. He continued, "The Wall Street Journal" quotes an engineer who admits he turned down more than a dozen offers because the salary would have been less than he made on welfare. This story encapsulates the problem of the long-term unemployed, the depth and length of this recession is at risk of creating a permanent pool of unemployed Americans who get so used to being unproductive that they are willing to accept welfare indefinitely instead of taking a job.
The man who turned down those offers will tell his own side of the story in just a minute and the reasons for turning down a job are not always as simple as Mr. Gingrich is.
"The Journal" interviewed Rick Hellowell about his company's difficulty finding people. He says, The jobs include starting pay of about $30,000 a year. He speculates that Americans might be hesitant to move to Dubai where the jobs are based. Speculates.
You might add other possible reasons for giving up a job, such as saving the country. Or because Republicans thought you unfit to work. This as the New York Times reports that yet another Republican politician, South Carolina's governor Mark Sanford has been approved by the Department of Labor to accept stimulus money targeted to expanding that state's unemployment benefits. An expansion governor Sanford once predicted would cause tax increases, but which now appears to have embraced wholeheartedly -- he now appears to have done so, signing the bill two months ago, expanding those unemployment benefits for his state to the tune of $98 million. Governor Sanford joining the ranks of other governors who once denounced such stimulus spending before they embraced it, such as Dave Heinemann of Nebraska and Sonny Purdue.
Despite the rush of Republicans to embrace the stimulus, most Republicans seem to have forgotten that it was their party, not President Obama's, that bailed out Wall Street Banks.
A new poll finding that more Americans, 47% think President Obama signed the troubled asset relief program, TARP, into law, only 34% know it was actually, shh, President Bush who did it.
And now as promised, "Countdown" exclusive, the man singled out by former Speaker Gingrich, because he in Gingrich's words, admits he turned down more than a dozen offers because the salary would have been less than he made on welfare, Mike Hatchel joining us from his home, along with his wife, Sarah. 11-year-old Wyatt unfortunately visiting family in California, although thrilled, I'm sure, we're showing his science achievement award photo on national TV tonight. Mike and Sarah, thank you for joining us tonight.
HATCHEL: Thank you, Keith. how are you?
OLBERMANN: Let me start with your bio, Mike. You're at 52 years old now, former law enforcement officer, used to have your own business as a mechanic. You were employed for 59 weeks, collected $450 a week in benefits and Mr. Gingrich suggests you got used to being unproductive. If that's not true, why did you turn down so many job offers?
HATCHEL: Keith, it's really hard for someone like Mr. Gingrich to understand the fact that when you have a mortgage, you have a family to support, you have car payments, insurance, everything else, when you're going out and looking for a job, you know, and obviously, it was a job, different jobs that i was looking at that were going to pay probably half of what I'm used to making. That was the situation.
When they're offering me these jobs, they're saying, this is going to be a situation where we're going to start you out at the entry level wage. And I, obviously, I've got some 32 years of experience in the automotive business and it was hard for me to do that, looking at 40 hours at $7.75 an hour, whatever it might be, a total of $310, $320 a week.
After you pay taxes, everything that comes out, Social Security and everything else, you might be $275, $265 or something like that. With a mortgage and everything else, yes, I was drawing unemployment of $450 a week which i actually paid into since i was a young man, you know, probably at least 35 years. and I felt like that, well, it's unemployment insurance, it's not welfare, Mr. Gingrich has spoken about.
And I felt like, well, until such time as i can actually get a gainful job that's going to help me keep my house, keep my family fed, not necessarily anything other -- expensive, other than just doing those basic things. I was not going to take any other job.
KO: They seemed to leave out the idea that it is insurance and you did pay into it. Pay now and don't get it later.
HATCHEL: Yes, sir.
KO: If you had taken those lower-paying jobs, your family would be considerably worse off now than it actually is, correct?
HATCHEL: Yes, sir. I would hate to even think. With a mortgage payment, if you don't make the mortgage, they'll come take the house and we would be out on the streets, God knows doing what. But you know, it's just unreal. That's all you can do, is try to do the best you can. And when I found a situation where I did have a better offer, of course, I took it. you know, something I knew that would work for me.
KO: Sarah, let me ask you something, can you weigh in on how you reacted when we brought Mr. Gingrich's remarks to your attention today?
SARAH: I was appalled, frankly, that he would even consider welfare being a part of unemployment insurance. I saw my husband beat the streets of Robison County, a very poor county, to try to find work, to save our home. It's been a really bad couple of years.
KO: Whichever one of you wants to take this, can you give us some idea of your life financially, meaning you seem like a typical Smerican family. How is the classic American dream looking for you right now in terms of your retirement, your son's college is coming up in the not too distant future, how's that looking?
HATCHEL: Obviously, I mean, with the unemployment, after 59 weeks without a job, you know, the IRA accounts, that got drained. we basically have no retirement other than, hopefully, the government will have Social Security. We all know how big that might be in the future.
We're still struggling. I mean, you know, for not making enough wage and actually keeping everything up, insurance, you know, the mortgage, food on the table, you know, we actually struggle to the point where we lost one car. Not able to make the two car payments, so she had a vehicle and I had a vehicle, and quite honestly, we're still behind on our mortgage.
We're still trying to make that up, make sure we keep the house. Just haven't been able to get to the point where we can actually catch up with the back payments that we got behind on. It's really tough, you know. And we just continue to fight. I go to work. I feel like as long as I'm working and go to work every day, things are going to get better. And I hope my wife will get a job here soon. She's been out of work even longer than i have. Some 25 or 26 weeks. It's tough. It's tough in the south, as we would say.
Last question, Mike. Is there anything else you would like to say to Mr. Gingrich or the other Republicans who say that the unemployed stay that way for the benefits, that they're spoiled or lazy and should take those lower-paying jobs and get off the public dime?
HATCHEL: Keith, I think it's no surprise to us that, as it has been for quite some time, that our politicians are going to use that word, are not in touch with the American people. especially the middle class or the lower class people, because i mean, that's the only thing that's keeping us going.
When I was on unemployment, I would sit there in front of the television, read the newspaper, look online to make sure whether they were going to extend my benefits or not, so I could tell whether or not I needed to make other arrangements, maybe find some place to live or move some place that I could afford to live. and it was just, it was always tough, you know. when that's all you have to depend on, what are you going to do?
Your life is in their hands, pretty much. and I don't think there's anyone out there just drawing unemployment just to be drawing it. I mean, obviously, they didn't ask to be laid off, you know and as far as I know, it's still unemployment insurance and we all pay into that.
It should be a situation where anyone who calls it welfare, I don't understand how he even calls it welfare. While we're on the term, i don't mean to speak out of turn, keith, he was talking about this company that was trying to hire 40 engineers.
HATCHEL: That particular story they read, okay, they were actually machinists that the company was trying to hire, and most of the machinists I know, I have been in the automotive field all my life, and machinists make considerably more than $13 an hour.
That's what this company was offering for a machinist. I can understand why they wouldn't accept that. If they were working as machinists, I'm sure their unemployment was either at that level or more, and they were in the same situation that I was, had they taken a lesser paying job, they would have lost everything. even more so than we have. I just think that it's -- you know, Washington's not in touch with the actual people, I'm afraid. That's nothing new. It's been that way since I was a young child. I wish it was different, but it's not.
KO: Mike and Sarah Hatchell. I think we'll take the common sense wisdom of Mike the mechanic over Joe the plumber any day. We thank you for your time and for your willingness to come forward and obviously our best wishes to you and the family. Thank you much.
HATCHEL: Thank you, keith.
SARAH: Thank you, keith, very much. thank you for having us on.