Gregg Rosen, co-founder of the American 99ers Union took the challenge of a FOX News interview on November 22. Mr. Rosen has previously been on FOX News and has clearly explained the plight of the unemployed, especially the 99ers, to the sometimes confrontational and often delusional FOX News personalities. The latest attempt by Mr. Rosen to convey the facts to news personality Charles Payne on the Varney & Co. show was a difficult task considering that most personalities at FOX News feel that unemployment benefits inhibit people from looking for work and getting a job. After all, there are many of the FOX News crowd, who think that the unemployed are lazy and worse: Do some Republicans consider the unemployed to be lazy, drug addicted hobos? You bet they do!
FOX News' Mr. Payne started the news piece in a somewhat evenhanded fashion, but then fell quickly into a confrontational diatribe about the problems of central planners on the free market. He upped his rhetoric with the following statement, "Here's the thing that bugs a lot of people; it certainly bugs me. It seems like the 99ers in particular are holding out for the right jobs. You guys talk about your advanced degrees and you can't take that kind of job or this kind of job. So it's incumbent upon the public to pay for you to sit at home until the right job comes along."
Mr. Payne's statement contained no supportive facts, figures or data; it contained simply his opinion and a misplaced opinion at that. Firing back with facts instead of opinion, Mr. Rosen said that if cutting off unemployment benefits was supposed to get people back to work, then why haven't the five million 99ers found jobs, unemployment remains at 9.6 percent for 15 months, you have five people battling for every one job opening, and if the jobs were truly there, why did the electorate demand more jobs?
Mr. Payne then said that the free markets need to work in order to create jobs. Apparently, he must have forgotten the Bush years and the laissez-faire, deregulated, free market policies that produced record deficits, outsized tax cuts for the wealthy, deregulation of the banking/investment sector and the resultant record foreclosures, record bankruptcies, record long-term joblessness and few jobs. The long-term unemployed face credit discrimination, age discrimination and "being unemployed" discrimination in the hiring process. How Mr. Payne can still demand the same economic policies that produced the most severe recession since the Great Depression is startling, but not surprising.
Mr. Payne asked, "Do you think it's good to keep people on unemployment benefits for two, three, four years? Do you think their skills are sharper, do you think they have more interest to get off the sofa? At some point there's a thing called tough love. Do you believe in that at all?" In reply, Mr. Rosen asked Mr. Payne "When you have Americans out there who are losing their homes, can't feed their families, and in some cases are taking their own lives, if we go along with your line of reasoning, you are telling me that people would rather go hungry and homeless than get a job?"
Mr. Rosen's reply seemed to fire up Mr. Payne, who shot back with a most bizarre relationship between the jobless and America's first settlers, "If people are faced with going hungry or homeless, they will find a job, they will create a job, they will create opportunities, because guess what? When the first Americans landed here, there was nothing. Some of them froze to death, some resorted to cannibalism, but they made it, they created the greatest country in the world"
Was Mr. Payne giving the long-term unemployed some survival tips by mentioning cannibalism? His tough love program may be going a bit far, but to him it must seem like a reasonable option. Being over-the-top and hyperbolic is nothing new for FOX News personalities, but this must be the first time that a cannibalism survival tip has been offered.
When asked his impression of the interview, Mr. Rosen responded," I always welcome debate, as there are two sides to every story and as such the hope is to find compromise (something the folks in Washington seem to have forgotten long ago)." What Fox provided was opinion and this is too important an issue to go that route. I chose to rely upon the facts and figures. The largest business in America is America and as such any solid business decision should be based upon fact rather than emotion.
Each time I brought facts into the discussion on we went to the next question. That is until I asked Mr. Payne if he believed Americans would prefer to go homeless and hungry rather than go back to work. At that point he explained how the early settlers of this country froze and even turned to cannibalism but in the end built a strong Nation. So, I guess if we follow the Fox recovery plan it won't be Turkey we will be dining on for Thanksgiving, rather we will be consuming our fellow 99ers. Of course that will solve the problem to a certain extent, as the 99ers won't go hungry for the holidays and there would be less of us (insert extreme sarcasm here)."
Mr. Rosen's facts were accurate, but the news personalities at FOX are generally more bombastic and sermonic than factually driven, down-to-Earth or level-headed. You can see the entire interview at FOX News.
Mr. Payne's America and the deregulatory, free market policies he espouses would seem to indicate that he supports the elimination of child labor laws, workplace safety rules, environmental regulation, the minimum wage, anti-discrimination laws and all banking and corporate regulation. Do Americans honestly want to go back to those days? I think not. That deregulatory environment has helped destroy millions of middleclass households over the past decade as the following facts show:
In America one in seven live in poverty, one in five children live in poverty, one in five don't have health insurance, one in five are unemployed/underemployed, one in seven are mortgage delinquent, two-thirds live paycheck to paycheck, 42 million are using food stamps. The United States has the greatest income inequality since just prior to the Great Depression. The United States ranks in the top third of world income inequality between Cameroon and Uruguay; and the United States has more income inequality than Indonesia, Russia, China and Turkey.
If Mr. Payne is looking for more of that kind of America, then better days are not ahead for most Americans.
Congress is on vacation this week. Unemployment benefit extensions will end on November 30 for 800,000 unemployed if Congress is unable to find a middle ground to pay for those extensions. There has been little media discussion of Sen. Debbie Stabenow's The Americans Want to Work Act, which would add 20 weeks of Tier 5 benefits in states with unemployment rates of 7.5 percent or greater. As congressional representatives prepare to sit down to a well-appointed Thanksgiving feast, up to five million 99ers will be sitting down to the fact that they have been abandoned by a system that they supported for so long.
Mr. Hayes may feel the answer to improving those statistics is tough love, but why is that tough love reserved for the unemployed and most financially vulnerable? Why haven't the corrupt banksters and investment firms, and politically connected wealthy who were bailed-out to the tune of $700 billion ($23 trillion if backstops are included) also received their share of tough love? Wall Street compensation, which was funded and made possible by taxpayer bailouts, totaled a record $144 billion in 2010 alone. Apparently tough love is a one-way street in Mr. Hayes' America.