How do businesses reconcile their fear of regulation, taxes, and the growing certainty of government health care with their insistence on driving millions of unemployed Americans into the waiting arms of the Democratic Party? With 4.8 million long-term unemployed, we have a pool of future Democratic voters ready to be dependent on government because a protracted recession left them with little choice. The biggest unemployment lie did not come from our government. It came from businesses – and you know who you are – that decided long-term unemployed Americans are not worth a second look.
Is rejecting the long-term unemployed a sign of survivor’s arrogance?
As high unemployment dragged on for years, anecdotal reports of businesses refusing to hire or even interview the long-term unemployed surfaced and spread. We keep hearing about skills becoming stale, about diminishing drive, and about not bothering with job candidates who are not already employed, seldom questioning why a dissatisfied employee is a better choice than a desperate, unemployed job seeker. After sifting through stacks of poorly written, typo-laden resumes unrelated to the position being filled, it is all but impossible to not wax cynical and assume that recessionary job loss included a much-needed housecleaning.
Many of us would never admit it, but there is a faint yet definite sense of superiority when we hear that an old acquaintance has passed on. Call it survivor’s arrogance. Dangling hope to a desperate job applicant can summon that same feeling. Both you and the object of the interview know that what you have to offer could be the difference between success and destitution, between paying the mortgage and being out on the street. With the number of unemployed Americans out of work for many months all but static, it could be the difference between life and death.
Skills don’t vanish and not all businesses can boast that they are quick adopters of new processes and technology, either. Good employees do not deteriorate, but bad employees will always be bad employees. Do competent hiring managers really believe that anyone perceived as having lost their value because they have been out of work was a good catch to begin with, or that conducting a job search does not require a level of technical savvy that many of us who are working would have a difficult time matching?
The government is more than happy to intervene.
Employers fearing regulation got lucky when the American Jobs Act bit the dust. The president was ready and willing to reinforce our dependence on government by forbidding businesses to refuse to hire the long-term unemployed:
We, as part of the American Jobs Act, are actually supporting legislation in Congress that says employers can’t discriminate against somebody just because they’re currently unemployed — because that doesn’t seem fair. That doesn’t make any sense.¹
How the powers that be would have gone about determining whether businesses were discriminating is a scary question that, thankfully, we do not have to answer. At least not yet.
Is dependence on government the only solution for the long-term unemployed?
Democrats are more than willing to spend lots of money to assuage the pain of joblessness. Dependence on government has been a mainstay of the Obama presidency and a bone of contention throughout the 2012 election season. Hundreds of billions have been lost in the name of making Washington the arbiter of all things, including job creation, but government does not create jobs. It can, however, punish businesses when it is politically expedient and relegate the private sector to bureaucratic hell.
There are unemployed Americans who have been out of work for a long time because they deserve to be. Others are casualties of the Obama economy. Applying the “unemployable” label to both groups is a mistake we will pay for.