“Please, Sir, I Want Some More”

Oliver TwistOh, how America, day by day, becomes what conservatives most desire: the Dickensian utopia where the rich are treated as titans and the poor know their place.

This morning, Jonathan Chait reports, Obama’s Plan to End Discrimination Against the Long-term Unemployed. Chait seems to be reasonably impressed. But as plan’s go, I file it along with things like the plan to impress a a rich man by befriending his dog and other Horatio Alger myths.

The situation for the long-term unemployed is indeed bad. As Chait shows in a graph from a new study, recently unemployed people with no experience in a particular field are four times as likely to get a call back as long-term unemployed people with experience. What’s going on is simple enough to explain. Employers just assume that if someone has been unemployed for a long time, there must be a reason. And this creates a feedback loop where the longer someone is unemployed, the harder it is for them to get a job.

Obama’s plan is to have major employers commit to not discriminating against workers in this way. And sure, even bringing up the issue is a good thing. The more people know about their biases, the better they can manage them. But it is weak tea. It reminds me of Oliver Twist saying, “Please, sir, I want some more.” But in this case, it is, “Please great and powerful Job Creator, give me at least a chance to compete against people who don’t have any of my skills.”

This touches on a broader issue with American business. In my experience, businesses would much rather hire fools and incompetents than hire one of those weirdos with skills and brains. Conservatives always claim that the government is bureaucratic, but in my experience, corporate America is even worse. What they want above all is nothing that will upset their little worlds. So despite the fact that we constantly hear that there are jobs out there but people don’t have the skills for them, the truth is that employers don’t really care. That is crystal clear when unskilled workers are called back far more than skilled workers over an issue as vague as the amount of time unemployed.

Of course, I don’t blame Obama. Actual policy to improve the economy can’t pass Congress. But fobbing off responsibility of aid for the unemployed to the rich is hardly the answer. But as answers go, it is the ultimate conservative approach: let the poor go cap-in-hand to the rich and beg like the servile dogs they are. But the long-term unemployed are not children. They are adults. Many of them are 50-somethings—middle managers and other skilled workers who any civilized society would value as the backbone of the middle class.

“Please, sir, I want some more.”

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

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