Blaming unemployment on “unemployees”

Hit & Run’s Tim Cavanaugh to “unemployees”: if you don’t like being discriminated against in job searches, get a job before you start.

The President’s proposed jobs plan contains a provision that would bar employers from saying no currently unemployed people need apply for their jobs. Hit & Run’s Tim Cavanaugh doesn’t like it.  He objects to creating a “new protected class” and thinks that barring employers from putting a no-jobless proviso in their job ads raises “First Amendment Issues” (the same ones raised, I suppose, by the current prohibition on housing ads that say “no Blacks, please”?).

What struck me more than Cavanaugh’s (predictable) opposition to the proposal is the “exhortation” he applies to those who’ve been without work for ages:

Do any work you can, even if it’s day labor, rather than building a personal brand as an unemployee.

“Personal brand as an unemployee.” Lovely. I’m sure that all the people out there who lack work have made just this mistake. They considered cultivating a reputation for being employed but instead made the boneheaded decision to “build a personal brand” around joblessness instead.  And this is profound advice in general: if you’re unemployed and want employers to stop discriminating against you in job searches, make sure you have a job before you start searching.

It turns out that Cavanaugh has used the term “unemployee” before, at least twice. The first two times he was saying, arguably, that deliberately building a media reputation around your own unemployment is counterproductive (“is ‘unemployee’ a career path?“)—a criticism which, while potentially valid, can logically apply only to about three people who have publicly sought out roles as spokespeople for the unemployed rather than merely being, say, unemployed.  Even in those posts he couldn’t help suggesting that the problem facing unemployed people in general is that they’d rather complain publicly about their lack of work than seek work. In the second of his posts he suggests that the few spokespeople he cites represent a “much larger universe of unemployees: non-workers who have evolved careers as subjects of news stories about long-term unemployment.” One might how large that universe in fact is. Just large enough, it seems (N=at least 3) to make Cavanaugh feel much better about mocking, rather than supporting, government efforts to boost demand.

“Unemployee” is surely one of the ugliest neologisms to appear in some time. It reminds me of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, in which handmaids who can’t bear live children—never mind that it’s often the more powerful men they serve who are infertile—are labeled “unwoman” and sent off to labor, if I recall, mining radioactive materials.

Writes Cavanaugh,

[I]t’s common sense that ending your own unemployment is the first step toward addressing the unemployment problem. 

Unlike Cavanaugh, I think the average long-term unemployed person has, in fact, tried just a few times to take that first step. Perhaps the unemployed are even smart enough to have thought of it themselves. Cavanaugh might in turn pause to think about whether he’s proud of branding the unemployed with a red-hot, vicious label and then blaming them for seeking out the brand.

Author: Andrew Sabl

Andrew Sabl, a political theorist, is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Toronto. He is the author of Ruling Passions: Political Offices and Democratic Ethics and Hume’s Politics: Coordination and Crisis in the History of England, both from Princeton University Press. His research interests include political ethics, liberal and democratic theory, toleration, the work of David Hume, and the realist school of contemporary political thought. He is currently finishing a book for Harvard University Press titled The Uses of Hypocrisy: An Essay on Toleration. He divides his time between Toronto and Brooklyn.

67 thoughts on “Blaming unemployment on “unemployees””

    1. Indeed. Try getting a job at a law firm if you’re currently flipping burgers or delivering pizza.

  1. If I understand the conservative position: the unemployed are a bunch of lazy good-for-nothings, and it’s the Democrats’ fault that business owners aren’t hiring more of them.

      1. No, he’s an ass, plain and simple. An ass who’s obviously never had to take a ‘day labor’ job in his life.

      2. Is anyone ever acknowledged to be a “conservative” when they’re spouting off? I mean, dude takes the Koch brothers’ shilling and writes for their house organ. He’s opposed to liberalism, and effectively supports the advancement of the conservative movement. You could make a case that this idea of his isn’t doctrinal conservatism (which in any case on this topic is more of the Ebenezer Scrooge variety), or you could make the argument that labels aren’t worthwhile and shouldn’t be used. But to claim this guy isn’t conservative while he’s being slapped around for his utterances is just too strongly reminiscent of all the hordes of people who’ve previously been suddenly perceived not to be authentically conservative when it’s convenient for this revelation to occur – the most prominent being, of course, George W Bush.

  2. The Supreme Court has decided one case that challenged a prohibition of discrimination in help-wanted advertising. A Pittsburgh ordinance prohibited newspapers from carrying “‘help-wanted’ advertisements in sex-designated columns except where the employer or advertiser is free to make hiring or employment referral decisions on the basis of sex.” Pittsburgh Press Co. v. Pittsburgh Commission on Human Relations, 413 U.S. 376 (1973). The ordinance was challenged as violating freedom of the press, and the Supreme Court upheld the ordinance. In doing so, the Court noted that sex discrimination in employment is illegal and said that it had “no doubt that a newspaper constitutionally could be forbidden to publish a want ad proposing a sale of narcotics or soliciting prostitutes.”

    Discriminating against the unemployed in hiring is not illegal, so the comparison to ads that say “no Blacks, please” is facile. (Making such discrimination illegal might address the problem more effectively than merely making discriminatory advertising illegal.) This is not to say that, if discriminating against the unemployed is not made illegal, it would necessarily violate freedom of speech for a law to ban ads that say “no unemployed.” Free speech law has changed since 1973, although one way in which it has changed is to give more protection to commercial speech, and that might make it more likely that the Court today would strike down an ad banning legal discrimination. I will make no prediction as to what the Court would do. I merely suggest that Mr. Sabl not practice law without a license. (I am being hyperbolic; his statement does not literally constitute practicing law without a license.)

    1. I meant, “might make it more likely that the Court today would strike down a LAW [not ‘an ad’] banning legal discrimination.” Sorry.

      1. No, I meant “that might make it more likely that the Court today would strike down a LAW ad banning ADVERTISING of legal discrimination.” I wish that this blog would allow one to edit one’s comments.

        1. What’s wrong with me this afternoon? I meant “that might make it more likely that the Court today would strike down a law banning advertising of legal discrimination.”

          1. I will readily admit to not being a lawyer. But I’m do have a lay knowledge of the original Fair Housing Act, and unless I got it grossly wrong it said that people who rented out housing in owner-occupied buildings (two-family houses etc.) could discriminate on the basis of race but were not allowed to advertise their intention to do so.

    2. I was too cautious: I will predict that the Court would strike down a law prohibiting advertising of legal discrimination. In 44 Liquormart, Inc. v. Rhode Island, 517 U.S. 484 (1996), the Court found that a total prohibition on “the dissemination of truthful, nonmisleading commercial messages for reasons unrelated to the preservation of a fair bargaining process” will be subject to a stricter review by the courts than a regulation designed “to protect consumers from misleading, deceptive, or aggressive sales practices.”

      1. This is a reply to Andrew Sabl’s 8:25 comment, which had no option to reply under it. I believe that you are right about the Fair Housing Act, but that doesn’t make it constitutional. It is an anomaly, which I am unaware of any court’s having addressed. (I know that the Supreme Court hasn’t.) In fact, I am pretty sure that the prohibition on advertising discrimination in situations where the discrimination is not prohibited applies to advertising discrimination based on any prohibited category, which means race, color, religion, sex,
        handicap, familial status, or national origin. It has been quite a few years since I’ve looked at the act, however.

        1. There has been litigation about this issue, and it has been addressed by federal appellate courts, although not by the Supremes. The leading case IIRC is Ragin v. New York Times Co., 923 F.2d 995 (2d Cir. 1991), which discusses the First Amendment issues in some depth, although hardly as a tour-de-force. Interestingly enough, discriminating.

          The funny thing is that RACE discrimination in owner-occupied buildings is in fact illegal. Not via the Fair Housing Act, but rather under the Civil Rights Act of 1866. Jones v. Mayer, 392 U.S. 409 (1968).

  3. Let me repost:

    Reason has a 100% record of glibertarian crap on economics.
    At this point, it’s gone on too long, too often, and too sociopathically
    to be an accident.

    Everybody there is guilty.

  4. Ugly ugly ugly.

    Cavanaugh is being an asshat, of course.

    But Obama is being cynical.

    There is almost no practical way that antidiscrimination law can do a damn thing about discriminatory hiring. This was true even before Walmart v. Dukes in individual cases. A plaintiff practically need the employer to twirl its corporate mustachios and cackle insanely. The burden of proof is too high, and hiding discriminatory policy is just too easy. Personnel offices exist to hide policy, and make proof more difficult. Discriminatory hiring was always difficult in disparate impact cases (groups of people), but Walmart makes it damn nigh impossible.

    So Obama is only demanding that employers make nice sounds, but can still do whatever they want. Kind of like his treatment of bankers.

    1. To be honest, whether employees would be likely to be found liable under this provision (even if it had any serious chance of passing the GOP House, which it doesn’t) is an interesting theoretical point but doesn’t much interest me. You must be right on the broad point that the provision is basically symbolic and would do vanishingly little to help the unemployed compared to a big improvement in the job market itself. If Cavanaugh had said that, I wouldn’t even have taken serious notice of his post, and might have agreed with it at least in part. It was his rhetoric about “unemployees” that was, more or less independent of the substantive issue, shocking. He really resents any suggestion that the long-term unemployed have anyone at all to blame but themselves.

      1. I’m curious about the policy and economic impact of such a proposal, were it to be put in place–something which you correctly note is highly unlikely. Tyler Cowen has said it would make employers refuse to go near the unemployed, but I am not sure of his reasoning. I’d be curious to hear from those (credible) voices on the right and left about this proposal’s impact.

        That said, you hit the nail right on the head with regards to the smugness of those like the guys that write for Reason. It’s really something, isn’t it? I’d laugh if it didn’t make me want to vomit.

        1. Brian,
          It is a favorite conservative argument to say that creating a protected class will make it unemployable. It goes like this.
          1. A member of a protected class is harder to fire than somebody who isn’t, because they might sue you. (True on the margin.)
          2. It is very hard to sue an employer for failure to hire an individual (the point I made above.)
          3. Therefore, an employer will discriminate on the intake end, to avoid discrimination suits on the output end.
          I think that there might be some truth to this for age discrimination. I think it is nonsense for race and gender. (These are judgment calls; I don’t want to defend them here.) It is nonsense on stilts for discrimination on the basis of previous unemployment. The plaintiff would have to allege that this animus somehow persisted despite his/her subsequent employment: an allegation that would reduce a judge to helpless gales of laughter.

          We are in agreement, but I’m sick and tired of care bear symbolism from Obama on economic issues.

  5. Tim Cavanaugh sounds like a [expletive deleted] moron with his head [anatomical impossibility deleted]. To call him a [genealogical insult deleted] would be offensive to all decent puppies.

    Yet that [unbelievably gross and offensive expletive deleted] is right about one thing: “job creators” are not interested in “creating” jobs, only in hiring people who already have them. I’m not sure Cavanaugh would admit to being right in that particular respect, mind you, because the people whose [lewd metaphor deleted — substitute: boots] he licks might not like it.


    1. I’m not even sure that job creators are interested in hiring people who already have them. The pre-hire screening process by employers these days also seems designed to get prospective employees fired from their existing jobs by “checking references” and “confirming employment” with CURRENT job supervisors as well. I am aware of at least 2 instances where professionals discreetly interviewing for new jobs have been blindslided by an outside HR firm who checked references with a current and former job supervisor although those names had not been expressly supplied as “references”. Instead it seemed to have become part of the due diligence that employers seem to feel entitled to undertake with no thought whatsoever to the prospective employee who doesn’t get offered a job but is now seen as disloyal and expendable by an existing employer. However when the candidates wanted to object to the prospective employer, it turned that in both cases the job applications (which are required before candidacy can be further considered) require candidates to provide names and authorization to contact all such current and prior employers and supervisors (as well conduct a credit check and other private information) so I am assuming it is now SOP for large employers. Job hunter beware.

  6. I don’t understand. Cavenaugh clearly has grasped the concept of an original personal style, but he seems to think that he has found his as idiot blowhard jerk. Doesn’t he know how many idiot blowhard jerks there are already (hint — more than three) ?

    Does he see his role in life to be making it easy for you to blog ?

    Anyway, I have to thank him. I suffer from low self esteem and find great comfort in the fact that, at least, I am not Tim Cavanaugh.

  7. Well, the outrage is predictable, of course, but it seems premised on the notion that employers are hiring for the benefit of their employees, current and potential, and not for the benefit of the company. That is to say, there seems to be little consideration of whether it is actually rational for an employer to avoid applicants who haven’t worked at anything for a long period.

    I would assert that, even in the present job climate, being unemployed for a long period tells you something, on average anyway, about the applicant.

    Now, that sucks for the applicant who managed to be unemployed entirely through no fault of their own for an extended period. Then again, it also sucks for those of us who learned their trades through long informal apprenticeships, rather than being credentialed, but I can’t blame an employer for wanting their engineers to have degrees. Employers don’t exist for the benefit of employees.

    Further, I’ll point out that, even where the unemployed don’t bear a substantial fraction of the blame for their (continued) state, nobody is in a better position to alter their circumstances than they are. (A general observation, applicable to a wide range of problems.) So it’s generally a good idea to encourage the notion that THEY should act to remedy it.

    1. Have you ever been poor? Have you ever gone without resources? The less you have, the fewer the options.

      I assert that the employment contract is a 2-way street and corporations have more than an obligation to their shareholders and board members; they have a social responsibility as well.

      How long is a long-time? 6 months? 12 months? 18 months? Are the unemployed already obsolete?

      I can see you are speaking from a position of comfort and security. Beware. Youre life can change in a flash.

    2. Indeed, employers do not exist for the benefit of their employees.

      And the legal structure that makes employment possible—that maintains the road between my house and my workplace, that backstops the banking system that my employer uses to distribute its profits, and that deters me from coming into the office in the middle of the night and walking away with thousands of dollars’ worth of computer equipment—does not exist for the exclusive benefit of employers.

    3. With respect to: I would assert that, even in the present job climate, being unemployed for a long period tells you something, on average anyway, about the applicant.

      Brett, as I had pointed out to you a couple of months ago, there are vastly more people seeking employment than there are open jobs.

      Right now, there is absolutely nothing that you can derive from the fact that someone has been unemployed for a long time (without having further information about the person and the nature of their unemployment) by itself other than the job market is currently lousy.

      And: Further, I’ll point out that, even where the unemployed don’t bear a substantial fraction of the blame for their (continued) state, nobody is in a better position to alter their circumstances than they are.

      This is obviously false. Several million Americans are absolutely powerless to change their circumstances with respect to employment by themselves. That’s elementary mathematics.

    4. They are acting to remedy it, by applying for the effin’ job!

      “I don’t want to sell you food. You should act to alleviate your own hunger.”
      “I don’t want you to join a gym. You should act to remedy your own lack of fitness.”

      No, they’re not hiring for the benefit of employees, which is why “job creators” is a misnomer. But that’s irrelevant here.

  8. Isn’t Mitt Romney currently unemployed? Perhaps he should be disqualified from running for President?

  9. I guess its time to re-write the SCARLET LETTER. Its no longer an A but a U. Branded but only in the original sence. The unemployed are now scalded with a red-hot iron leaving behind a very personal and devastating U. So what are we going to do with all these lazy louts? May I suggest WORK HOUSES? Ahhh, how the nasty ones would just jump with glee and joy and feel deep sense of satisfaction to witness the fall of a fellow citizen.

    What a waste of talent, knowledge and experience by locking out the unemployed. Now more than ever we need these men and women most. We have to rebuild our world now before it burns up. But no! Instead, all we get offered by the elite is an ever shrinking life boat in an sea of abandonment. Its a bitter time.

  10. Robert Waldmann says:

    “I don’t understand. Cavenaugh clearly has grasped the concept of an original personal style, but he seems to think that he has found his as idiot blowhard jerk. Doesn’t he know how many idiot blowhard jerks there are already (hint — more than three) ?”

    It’s lucrative, and fun. And it’s useful to the right. In the Wikipedia entry for ‘Overton Window’, there’s a key point (which would be unsurprising for anybody who know ‘Carthago delenda est’):

    “Other formulations of the process created after Overton’s death add the concept of moving the window, such as deliberately promoting ideas even less acceptable than the previous “outer fringe” ideas, with the intention of making the current fringe ideas acceptable by comparison.”

    Coining the word ‘unemployee’ is a deliberate piece of nasty hate-mongering work.

  11. Just from a policy and profitability point of view (ignoring the equities) the idea of interviewing only the employed is stupid, unprofitable, an admission of incompetence for the HR department and a drag on the economy both present and future. (Which makes it perfect for soi-disant conservatives to support.)

    Already-employed people are in general going to demand higher wages than the unemployed (both to cover their transition costs and because they have an alternative). Whether the pool is any better than that of the unemployed depends acutely on why the already-employed are looking for a different job, and the HR department that is using employment status as a screening shortcut is unlikely to be able to evaluate the remaining candidates effectively either. Meanwhile, like any beggar-thy-neighbor tactic, hiring the employed works only if everyone else isn’t doing it too. Otherwise even if a company were to experience gains by narrowing its hiring pool, it would experience countervailing losses by having other companies poaching its employees.

    Of course, on a macro level this kind of thing is even worse, because it means that overall employers are disinvesting in the work force the same way that they disinvested in plant and equipment in previous decades. If, by some terrible miscalculation on the part of wall street or the GOP, demand were to start increasing substantially at some point in the future, exmployers would be faced with a sharply narrowed pool of qualified candidates, leading to bottlenecks, wage-driven inflation, lost productivity and all the other things that go with the structural mismatches that some ideologues claim are currently affecting employment. Any corporate policy that relies on a coming lost decade is not a good idea.

  12. This blame the unemployed thing is intended to take the focus off those so-called ‘job creators’ who aren’t creating jobs even though they’ve enjoyed tax breaks that were intended to facilitate the creation of jobs.

  13. Why pass a law that creates more mischief than real enforceability?

    Yes, the libertarians like Cavanaugh are a mean spirited bunch when they say the stuff they say, and prove why they don’t live in the real world where an employer in the professional world will look askance at an engineer or lawyer or such taking a hamburger flipping job while looking for work. However, this situation is because the US government has failed to follow New Deal sorts of programs to increase demand. Mr. Bellmore is correct that employers hire to help themselves, not employees. I just wish he’d agree that putting people to work on infrastructure rebuilding or redevelopment will do more for unemployed folks in all sorts of occupations…

  14. Employers may not be under any obligation to serve the unemployed by creating jobs, but the government (meaning: us) is surely obligated (if owned by the people, an important caveat I know) and in a position to take steps that secure economic gains and higher employment for the people — ranging from education, to trade policies, to public works programming …

  15. I think we’ve got some confusion here between cause and effect. Employers only wanting to hire the already employed isn’t a cause of unemployment. It’s an effect of a contracting labor market.

    Without the need for more employees, employers will naturally want to hire people already employed: They know that, in a job market like this, if you haven’t been laid off, you’re probably a productive employee. If you ARE unemployed, maybe you’d be a productive employee. Maybe you wouldn’t. But they’ve got no need to take the chance, because they don’t need enough employees to have to hire unemployed people.

    Ban discrimination against unemployed people in hiring, and it won’t get the unemployed jobs. It will get the already employed more job security. Because you’re forcing the employer to take a gamble if they replace somebody, and they don’t want to gamble, and they don’t need more employees, so they don’t have to.

    Unless the plan here is to force employers to fire people who already have jobs, so you can rotate the unemployed through the reduced pool of jobs?

    What we need is job creation. Then employers will have to hire unemployed folks, because there won’t be enough employed people looking to change positions to fill the jobs.

    In short, don’t confuse cause and effect. You’re not talking about measures that would increase employment, (Quite the contrary.) just measures that would redistribute it. Is that really worthwhile?

    1. >”Employers only wanting to hire the already employed isn’t a cause of unemployment. It’s an effect of a contracting labor market.”

      Looking for work is like dating in high school – you are attractive if and only if you already dating. Some *other* person has judged you “worthy” and that excuses the current dater/employer from having to use their judgement at all.

    2. Unproductive employees don’t get laid off; they get fired. Layoffs, practically by definition, happen when the employer has no complaints about the employee’s performance but cannot afford to keep him/her on.

      My employer, Nokia, is laying off thousands of its employees (the latest round, ironically, was announced on the first day of Rosh Hashanah). Did the CEO comb through the performance evaluations of each employee at each office and can the worst-performing 10% of each office? No. The company is undergoing a massive change in its business strategy, which affects the kinds of phones it is going to issue in the long term and therefore the kinds of people they need to hire to make them. To save money, they are consolidating operations, closing some of their offices and factories, so if you happen to be living in the wrong place, your job is on the chopping block.

  16. They know that, in a job market like this, if you haven’t been laid off, you’re probably a productive employee.

    Six and a half years ago I was laid off a job I held for twenty years three months after we had concluded our best year ever and six month after I had been awarded my second exceptional service award in three years. My productivity never an issue, nor was the firm’s financial health. Management was just obsessed with cutting staff.

    So they don’t actually “know” anything. They’re merely putting two and two together and getting five.

  17. Brett Bellmore never spoke truer words than these: Employers don’t exist for the benefit of employees.

    Or these: What we need is job creation. Then employers will have to hire unemployed folks …

    Brett then cautions: …don’t confuse cause and effect. You’re not talking about measures that would increase employment, (Quite the contrary.) just measures that would redistribute it. And he asks, perhaps rhetorically: Is that really worthwhile?

    Brett’s first statement ought to be carved in marble, in gilded letters two feet high, and set to music — so that it can be sung to and dropped on the heads of the GOP propagandists who keep talking about “job creators”. Brett often sounds like a GOP propagandist, but he obviously understands that “job creators” only hire people when they cannot help it, tax cuts or no tax cuts.

    And yes, we should keep cause and effect straight: demand is the cause, “job creation” is the effect. In economics, “demand” is not mere desire; it is desire backed by money. People without money can’t buy the stuff that “job creators” hire people to produce. So “we need job creation” actually means “we need more demand”, which translates to “we need more spending”. The only way to increase spending is to actually, you know, spend.

    But I really want to address Brett’s specific question, whether he meant it to be rhetorical or not. Would little piddling measures that seek to redistribute “employment” be worthwhile? It depends on what “worthwhile” means.

    Some of us played baseball in Little League. Some of us were “productive” batters, some of us were “efficient” fielders, and some of us were neither. Some team coaches made it a point to “employ” that last category of kids instead of keeping them on the bench all the time. They “redistributed employment” in doing so, of course; they also reduced their team’s “competitiveness”, undoubtedly. Whether that policy was “worthwhile” depends on what you consider the whole point of Little League to be. If you think the whole point is to provide amusement and exercise to all the kids who make up the “society” of the league, then you’ll think one way. If you think the whole point is to “win” the league championship, you’ll think the other way. If I remember right, the “government” of the Little League that I played in (composed, I should think, of parents of all the different kinds of kids) went so far as to impose “employment sharing” regulations on all the coaches. The league’s overall batting average (its “GDP”, if you like) surely suffered thereby. But all the kids got to play.

    The analogy is imperfect, like all analogies, but I will take it one step farther: in my town’s Little League, there were probably only about 18 kids who were productive batters and efficient fielders. They could have made up two “productive” baseball teams without “employment sharing”. But even they might have been “worse off”, since the league would have had a mighty short season that way.

    “Worthwhile” depends on what you think the point of the enterprise is, whether you’re talking about Little League, or “the economy”, or “society”, or “life”. Opinions differ at all those levels, I suppose.


    1. Gosh, I love you. Thanks for the great point of your first few paragraphs.

      There was an ****** from the “Competitive Enterprise Institute” on NPR this morning, insisting over and over on the obvious point that “employers don’t create jobs for the benefit of employees” and your point just does his nonsense in.

      I swear the Republicans get their message out from the top, and the mouthpieces, from Brett to the think-tank spox, repeat it as instantly if they were all on the same radio-command frequency.

  18. There may actually be such a thing as an “unemployee.” When I was in grade school, my mother was very diligent about discovering, and taking advantage of, programs (governmental and otherwise) designed to help low-income people. Had she been equally diligent about increasing her income, who knows what might have happened? I grew up thinking of myself as “low-income,” as immutable as “white” and “male.” When I got a decent job and started earning a good income, I had to do a lot of rethinking. I suspect that were I to lose a large amount of weight, I’d also have to make a conscious effort to no longer think of myself as fat.

  19. “Brett often sounds like a GOP propagandist, but he obviously understands that “job creators” only hire people when they cannot help it, tax cuts or no tax cuts.”

    Well, yeah. You often go the the store to buy stuff you don’t want or need, out of concern for the retailers’ flagging sales? Nah, I didn’t think so.

    “It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we can expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest”; Neither do the butcher, the brewer, or the baker rely on our benevolence, and a darned good thing for them, cause I don’t see much of that benevolence here.

    Employers don’t hire people they won’t make money by hiring. You want more people hired, make it more profitable to hire ’em. And you don’t do that by making hiring a hazardous activity…

    1. Brett, your words say “Yes, yes!” but your tone seems to say “No, no!”; your comment sounds … coquettish.

      I mean, we absolutely agree: NONE of us buys goods or services just to provide employment to others. I don’t, you don’t, “job creators” don’t. So what’s YOUR idea of how to “make it more profitable” for you, or me, or some mom-and-pop start-up, or some large corporation that’s laying people off while wallowing in cash, to “create jobs”?


  20. “First, do no harm.” We are not going to reduce unemployment by making hiring an ultra-hazardous activity. Just puncturing stupid ideas is a contribution.

    You want a positive suggestion? Deport illegal aliens. Americans won’t take those jobs? Garbage! Americans won’t be offered those jobs, so long as illegals who don’t dare complain about working conditions because they’re afraid of being deported are available. That’s a corollary of the “Employers don’t exist for employees.” observation.

    They might not be jobs you’d want to raise a family on, but a lot of the jobs illegal aliens get today are jobs that teens used to take as their first jobs. (I ought to know, I picked radishes at a local farm as a kid. Sure motivated me to get that desk job!) You don’t help people climb a ladder by cutting off the first few rungs.

    1. Big problem Brett, is that Americans don’t actually want those jobs, one farmer found out the hard way when he tried to hire Americans instead of immigrants, the Americans mostly quit because the work was too hard.

      They even had a program to get Americans to take the jobs of immigrants, it didn’t work, Americans don’t want to do that back breaking work.

      You got to college and get a degree, you don’t want to end up being a day laborer, you want a job that allows you to use at least some of the skills you learned.

      Only way to get employment growing is to juice demand, high demand will mean high level of hiring.

      he Catch 22 however is when people are out of work, their demand is going to be lower, so the only solution is for some entity to do something big that hires people and juices demand

      1. I didn’t particularly want to pick radishes, either. I just didn’t want to be completely without money, and couldn’t find any other jobs. So I took what I could get.

        Look, people, by and large, don’t want jobs. They want money. They only take the jobs because they need the money. Hey, my own job is pretty nice as jobs go, but if you gave me the money without having to do it, I’m sure I could find things I’d rather do.

        Thus the second suggestion: Make being on the public dole as degrading as the jobs people won’t take. Nobody gets ANYTHING for free. Work ’em, and work ’em hard and boring, until picking radishes looks like fun. I’m sure there are streets that need sweeping, weeds growing in the cracks in the pavement that need removal, and so forth.

        I know you’ll hate that idea, and think I’m a monster. Because you’d rather tax people who are working, to give money to people who won’t take jobs.

        We disagree about what makes one a monster, obviously.

        1. Once again, Brett, you repeat almost word for word something I, a flaming liberal, have been saying for years:

          Look, people, by and large, don’t want jobs. They want money. They only take the jobs because they need the money.

          I’m beginning to wonder how we can both stipulate the same premises and each come to such different conclusions. But I see a hint of where you go off the rails, in THIS statement:

          I’m sure there are streets that need sweeping, weeds growing in the cracks in the pavement that need removal, and so forth.

          See, you’re describing GOVERNMENT JOBS, here. And you know what? Government can indeed hire people — by SPENDING MONEY, which you usually rail against. You now seem to be okay with government spending money as long as the recipients of the money are made sufficiently miserable. Curiously, I could agree with you if you were consistent about it. “Work’em, and work’em hard and boring, until picking radishes looks like fun” is exactly how I would treat, say, the engineers and technicians (not to mention the CEOs and directors) of “private sector” companies whose income is government money spent on, say, drone aircraft and war-fighting robots. If you want ALL government-funded jobs to be backbreaking, degrading, and low-paid (whether to encourage employment in the radish-picking industry or for other reasons) then maybe you and I can explore further areas of mutual agreement.


          1. I’m describing government jobs that nobody is being put to, while we’re extending unemployment benefits over and over again, recreating pre-reform welfare. Why? I think it’s because unemployed people have become a large enough fraction of the population to be an important voting block, and nobody wants to annoy them by demanding that they do something for the money.

            Now, there are jobs you apparently don’t want done, and so think that the people who do them should be paid peanuts. Fine by me in many cases, our military spending is insane. Just don’t expect to pay people peanuts to do things few people can do, and have those things done.

    2. You want a positive suggestion? Deport illegal aliens.

      I always find it amusing when a free market fanatic loudly proclaims his preference for heavy regulations and restrictions on a free market in labor.

      1. I always find it amusing when liberals claim to be champions of democracy and the rule of law, when they oppose enforcing laws democratic super-majorities have unwaveringly favored for decades.

        You want to replace the leviathan with a night watchman state, I’ll support opening the borders. But you can’t have nice stuff next to a third world country if you don’t keep the door locked.

        1. In other words, your support of free markets is not consistent. In the future, whenever you expound on how great they are, the powers that be should always add an asterisk and footnote that you don’t actually mean what you say.

    3. Wait, so instead of arresting the illegal employers, you want to create a situation where their employees don’t dare complain?

      Don’t you see the catch-22 of blaming the employees imported and paid to do the work, rather than the employers who employ them?

  21. BB: “I always find it amusing when liberals claim to be champions of democracy and the rule of law, when they oppose enforcing laws democratic super-majorities have unwaveringly favored for decades.”

    Like Jim Crow laws? But I quibble. Consider this: The size of the ‘night watchman’ state required to root out and deport 10 million people. Who would search them out? Think of all the added law enforcement personnel this would take. What civil/court procedures will be required to implement this effort? Where would we get the judges/administrators? How would this be paid for? Why…YES! This could be a great way to hire the unemployed and put them to work. Now I hear you sniggering, but hear me out. Government spending does not create jobs. BEHOLD, yes it can! So now we have wiped out illegal aliens and put all the unemployed to work….what’s next? What do we do with this vast new state machinery? Why, we shoot them of course. This has both the salutory effect of reducing the labor force and thus raising wages AND reducing the size of government.

    Heh. Social policy. Easy stuff once you put your mind to it.

  22. Did I hear Brett agree that the whole thing about lower taxes for the wealthy and corporations creating jobs is hogwash, because they are only going to hire what they need anyway?

  23. BevM: yes you did! But in translation, naturally; Brett may insist he meant something different in his native language.

    Brett: you seem very cocksure about what “government jobs” unemployed people would be willing to take. Possibly it’s because you’d make damn sure the jobs were properly demeaning: no hiring people to drive street-sweeping machines, or build street-sweeping machines, or design better street-sweeping machines, even if they are qualified to do so; no, just give’em a broom, a dustpan, and a day-glo vest so that they feel adequately stigmatized. Then they’d have the incentive to run right out (after their shift, of course) and find jobs — say, at a private company that makes street-sweeping machines for sale to the government. Those would be REAL jobs, the “creators” of which are the real heroes of the American economy.

    There is more useful public work that needs doing than sweeping streets or weeding sidewalks, Brett. There are unemployed people with the skills to do it. But it would never do to actually hire those people directly, would it? I mean, if some “job creator” doesn’t get his cut, whatever would be the point of spending public money on it?


  24. this thread’s oscar zoroaster phadrig isaac norman henkel emmannuel ambroise diggs (aka brett bellmore) doesn’t seem to have as much background knowledge about economics or politics as some of the others. taking all of his statements in this thread together i can’t get any coherent thoughts from it. perhaps it’s the whole group of them playing a game in which they are taking turns responding but they have agreed that they won’t read what the previous one wrote and are guessing based on the responses to the posts instead.

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