Your Take: The Jobless Aren’t Lazy

Despite what some GOP lawmakers claim, people want to get back to work, says ColorOfChange's executive director.

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Getty Images

Unemployment is at 9.1 percent, unemployment among black and Latino Americans is even higher (at 16.7 percent and 11.3 percent respectively) and job creation has risen to the top of the government’s agenda.

So what are many top Republicans saying about the struggles of millions of Americans who can’t find work? That it’s their own fault, of course — they simply don’t want to return to work because it’s so easy to live off food stamps and unemployment checks.

Last week South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint joined the attack against the unemployed in an interview with CNN’s Candy Crowley:

DeMint: We have to have unemployment. But the longer you make it, the more perverse incentives you create. Candy, I have talked to a lot of businesses in South Carolina who can’t get employees to come back to work because they are getting unemployment and they’re getting food stamps and they say, “Call me when unemployment runs out.”

Crowley: That can’t be the bulk of people who are unemployed — you don’t think the bulk of people, the 14 million Americans who are out of work, actually just prefer to stay on unemployment benefits?

DeMint: No. There are a lot of people who desperately need it, and we need to make sure that we have that safety net in place, but we also have to realize there are a lot of people gaming the system right now. And we need to do better than we have done with just extending benefits; there have to be incentives for people to get back to work. These have to phase out in a way that we haven’t done it before.

We recently asked members of ColorOfChange, our online activism group, to send in personal stories of what it’s like to be unemployed. We heard about how hard it is to survive and make ends meet with an unemployment check and food stamps. We heard about how discouraging and hopeless it can feel to file hundreds of applications, searching for jobs for months or years on end. We heard from people who have to choose between essentials like food and medicine, who fear they won’t be able to keep their family members alive and safe, and some who know they will be homeless soon, when their benefits run out.