THE BLOG

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Michael Thornton Headshot

Gibbs: 99ers Will be Saved by Jobs, Not Unemployment Benefits. But Honestly....

Posted: Updated:

In replying to ABC's Jake Tapper's question about 99ers and what can be done to help the millions of long-term unemployed, Presidential Press Secretary Robert Gibbs offered a baffling, disjointed, mishmash answer chock full of clichés and lacking any substance. Gibbs-speak, shall we say? First let's look at the unedited version of the 99er exchange.

TAPPER: ... they're individuals who have been -- whose unemployment insurance has run out. They were not included in the deal, the tax deal that the president signed with Mr. McConnell, the Republicans and others. Is there anything that the president can do for them?

GIBBS: Well, I think the best thing that we can do as a country is to get -- get a fragile economy more stable, and one that creates more jobs. I think that's -- that's why I think, you know, economists said that they would reorient their growth estimates based on the agreement that the president signed. And obviously, the best thing we can do for them is to create an environment where businesses are hiring. Look, we have -- what you've heard me say on a number of occasions, that one of the great benefits of the agreement was taking the politics out of -- out of unemployment insurance. We -- we -- we have -- it's been a contentious battle just to get unemployment insurance to continue up to 99 weeks. It's not -- it's not in any way been easy. And this takes the politics out of that throughout 2011 and hopefully we can focus -- continue to focus on getting the economy moving again and providing -- providing those guys with a helping hand with a job.

As Mr. Tapper alludes, the 99ers, those who have exhausted all unemployment benefits, were not part of the $856 billion tax agreement brokered between Obama and the Republicans. While many 99ers are certainly glad that Mr. Tapper at least brought up the subject of 99ers, his question to Mr. Gibbs lacked any sense of urgency or breath of the issue. After all, millions have exhausted all available unemployment benefits and have no other means of support

What was most telling was that the interview Q & A ignored reality. Mr. Tapper posed a softball question to a hardball subject and Mr. Gibbs tried his best to spin a bad situation into a confusing situation. Let's see if this interview can be better understood with some realities added to the question and answer. Here's how the interview segment would have made more sense:

Honest Mr. Tapper: Estimates are that 4-5 million unemployed have exhausted all their unemployment benefits - the 99ers. Since job creation is near zero and millions more 99ers are in the pipeline for 2011, why didn't the president demand some relief for these long-suffering jobless, instead of just giving billions more in tax cuts to businesses that aren't hiring and to the wealthy who don't need the extra money?

Honest Mr. Gibbs: Yes, the economy is still unable to create the jobs needed to help the four to five million and growing ranks of 99ers. We didn't include 99ers in the monster tax package plan because economists think job growth will increase and you know how much you can trust economists to be correct (LOL)! We are more concerned about continually giving untold billions in tax breaks to businesses that still are not hiring even though they have recorded record profits and are sitting on over one trillion dollars in capital. Eventually, they will have to hire some additional people, maybe even a couple 99ers, just to count all that extra cash!

We took the politics out of the next 13 months of unemployment benefits extensions for those who haven't exhausted benefits, but when millions more do exhaust benefits in 2011, well, honestly, tough luck. In fact we didn't even bring up the matter of unemployment benefits exhaustion because we were afraid to make Republicans angry. You know how nasty Republicans can get if you bring up government job creation or longer term benefits! Are you crazy (LOL)? Did you see what that whacko Sen. Bunning did last year when we tried to extend unemployment benefits? We didn't want to go there again. Those guys are nuts!

We feel it's much more important to bailout corrupt and mismanaged Wall Street and foreign banks, large insurance companies and auto manufacturers than it is to bailout the long-term unemployed. I mean, do you think the president will receive more money for his 2012 reelection campaign from corrupt business leaders or 99ers? Get real, Jake. Sure, we hope 99ers support us, but we know where our bread is buttered and it's not from contributions from unemployment checks!

We will continue to go down the same path of giving billions in tax breaks to businesses and the wealthy, but we have our fingers crossed that they create a few jobs for the very long-term unemployed. Our job creation policies haven't worked for the past two years, but we're certain, certain those same policies will work this time. Third time lucky, we think!

Tapper: Thank you for being honest with your answers.

Gibbs: Thank you for asking a probing, difficult question.

Although that interpretation is over the top, many long-term unemployed 99ers may not see it that way. They have been ignored for almost a year and their ranks are growing quickly. 99ers were and are being ignored by elected representatives, but the media has a responsibility to do more than simply ask questions, they need to investigate and determine why so many are being ignored for so long.

You can see the entire interview: Power, pop, and probings from ABC News Senior White House Correspondent Jake Tapper. Weakness, fizzle and pleasantries may be a more appropriate title to Mr. Tapper's interview, but he does deserve some credit for having the decency to ask the 99er question.

Observing how many politicians and media pundits avoid, disparage, manipulate and dismiss those who have exhausted unemployment benefits is disturbing, but it's demoralizing, depressing, damaging and destructive to those families who have to live through it, the long-term unemployed, the 99ers.