President Obama responded to the Senate vote to move forward on extension of unemployment benefits by destroying the Republican argument that extending benefits hurts the unemployed.
The president began by listing the ways that the economy is on the rebound. Obama said we should build on our economic progress by extending insurance for the unemployed. He called unemployed insurance a lifeline for people while they are looking for a new job. The president said that, “If we don’t provide unemployment insurance, it makes it harder for them to find a job.”
Obama said, “This is not an abstraction. These are not statistics.” He reminded Republicans that the unemployed are your friends, your neighbors, and in an economic downturn, they could be you. The president also made the economic case that unemployment insurance creates jobs. He talked about the history of bipartisan action to extend unemployment benefits. The president said that if unemployment benefits don’t get fixed it will hurt 14 million Americans.
Obama obliterated the Republican argument that extending unemployment benefits hurts the unemployed. He said, Now, I’ve heard the argument that extending unemployment benefits That really sells the American people short. I meet a lot of people as president of the United States, and as a candidate for president of the United States, and as a U.S. Senator, and as a state senator, and I can’t name a time when I’ve met an American who would rather have an unemployment check than the pride of having a job. The long term unemployed are not lazy. They are not lacking in motivation. They are coping with the aftermath of the worst economic crisis in generations.”
The president was anticipating the moral argument that many House and Senate Republicans, including Rand Paul and Paul Ryan, have made in the past and will continue to use as justification for opposing extending unemployment benefits.
Their argument is based on old stigma of American culture that paints the unemployed as lazy and undeserving of help. The roots of this argument go back centuries in our country, and conservatives have used this warping of the Protestant work ethic to justify cruelty towards the poor for decades.
President Obama shattered that argument by putting a face on who the unemployed really are. The unemployed aren’t jobless because of a failing of moral character. The are jobless because the financial collapse destroyed the economy. The failure of moral character came from the GOP’s beloved job creators. The unemployed are the victims of their rampant recklessness and greed.
At a time when Republicans are literally taking food and shelter away from the unemployed, President Obama has their back. The president isn’t just fighting for benefits. He is battling the senseless demonization of hard working Americans.
Republicans have no good reason for not extending unemployment benefits, and Obama and Democrats are stripping of the GOP’s mask of faux populism to show the nation who they really are.