Tag Archives: unemployment

Inherent Bias

The Atlantic has an amazing story about the entrenched biases that affect peoples’ perceptions of the world, and how they are affected by political allegiance. Aptly titled “It’s Not About the Economy,” author Alana Semuels uses the northern Indiana town of Elkhart to illustrate how in this post-truth era, political tribalism affects our views more than economic realities:

Elkhart’s unemployment rate, which had reached a high of 22 percent in March of 2009, is now at 3.9 percent. Hiring signs dot the doors of the Wal-Mart, the McDonald’s, and the Long John Silver’s. The RV industry makes 65 percent of its vehicles in Elkhart, and the industry is producing a record number of vehicles, which is creating a lot of jobs in this frosty town in northern Indiana.

Despite this good economic and jobs news, Elkhart voters don’t credit President Obama or the Democrats. Not only do they think the economy improved in spite of, not because of, Obama, they also blame Obama for things he didn’t do, or don’t give him credit for things that he did. It basically boils down to this: people in Elkhart, IN don’t like Democrats, period, and nothing will change that:

These biases are only increasing as the country becomes increasingly polarized. As people become increasingly loyal to their parties, they are unlikely to give leaders from the other party credit for much of anything positive. Both sides are instead more likely to believe narratives that suggest that the other party has only made things worse.

“People’s predispositions affect their factual beliefs about the world,” said Brendan Nyhan, a professor of government at Dartmouth College who has researched why people believe what they do about politics. “What we want to be true influences what we believe to be true.”

Indeed, as the economy began improving, Elkhart voters grew less likely to support Democratic candidates for president. Obama won 44 percent of the vote in Elkhart County in 2008, 36 percent in 2012, and Clinton received just 31 percent in 2016.

Thanks, hate radio and Fox News! Really, this has to be the Fox Effect, more than anything. (And yes, it works the other way, too. Democrats generally won’t credit Republicans with doing anything right, either. Although we do embrace conservative policies, and hullo, who ever thought Democrats would fight to the death to support a Republican healthcare plan?)

Check out these reasons why people in Elkhart don’t like President Obama:

Ed Neufeldt, whose daughter and two son-in-laws now work in the RV industry after losing their jobs in it during the recession, told me he thought Obama was responsible for improving the economy in Elkhart, but that he still didn’t like the president because of his stance on abortion.

Okay, I can buy that. I don’t agree with it, but at least it’s an actual policy disagreement. For the record, Ed Neufelt was the only person Semuels spoke with who credited Obama with improving the economy. But he found another reason not to like him. Funny how that works.

And then there’s this:

Brandon Stanley owns a bar in Elkhart. He says he’s optimistic that the economy is improving now that Republicans have regained power, but emphasizes that there are still a host of economic problems that haven’t been solved in Elkhart. As for the shrinking unemployment rate in Elkhart, “they changed how they report unemployment numbers,” he told me, so they’re not believable.

Ah, the “damn lies” contingent. When the facts are in opposition to your preconceived political bias, the facts must be wrong. For the record, I remember a version of this among liberals during the Bush years: yes, unemployment numbers were at a certain rate, the popular talking point went, but it didn’t reflect those who had “given up looking for a job.” I’m quite certain I repeated that line myself, and it may or may not have been true at the time. I now hear that same line repeated by Republicans in regards to current unemployment numbers. And thanks to the internet, it’s really easy to find links bolstering whatever argument you want to make.

Now let’s meet another Elkhart resident with some really good reasons for hating Obama:

Andi Ermes, 39, offered a number of reasons for disliking Obama. She said Obama didn’t attend the Army-Navy football game, even though other presidents had. Obama has actually attended more Army-Navy games than George H.W. Bush. She said that he had taken too many vacations. He has taken fewer vacation days than George W. Bush. She also said that he refused to wear a flag pin on his lapel. While it is true that Obama did not wear a flag on his lapel at points during the 2007 campaign, it was back on his suit by 2008. Ermes told me the news sources she consumes most are Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, and a local conservative radio show hosted by Casey Hendrickson.

What did I say about hate radio and Fox News? This is particularly stupid because, really, who gives a shit if someone wears a flag pin or not? And it just goes to show, there’s nothing a Democrat can do to earn the votes of the brainwashed. Just as there was literally nothing Donald Trump could do that would lose the allegiance of these same brainwashed folks. As long as you have that “R” behind your name and spout the same stupid approved points, you are golden with these folks.

I’m not sure what the solution to this is. It all seems part of a larger social and demographic unraveling. I also wonder how uniquely American this is. Other countries have the internet, fake news, partisan news media and biased columnists. Has the poison of hyperpartisanship affected Canada, Australia and the UK? Do people blindly not accept facts that challenge their preconceived worldviews in France and India and China?

If living in a cocoon of ignorance is more palatable than moving one’s biases one inch to the right or left, we are all truly doomed.


Filed under 2016 Election, 2016 Presidential Election, economy, unemployment

The Question That Finally Is Asked

Finally someone (cough*cough*HIPPIE AT NPR*cough*cough) asks the question that no one has bothered to address during this whole Michigan right-to-work debacle. Which is, why does anyone think there’s a connection between “right-to-work” and employment? Why would anyone think that, when all you have to do is look at the unemployment figures from RTW states? Via ThinkProgress:

Pressed by Marketplace Morning Report host Jeremy Hobson to explain what proof Snyder had that Michigan would see a job boom as a result of the law, the Governor cited neighboring Indiana’s recent job numbers as his only evidence:

SNYDER: This is about more and better jobs coming to Michigan. If you look at Indiana, they did similar legislation in February. And literally, thousands of new jobs are coming to Indiana where this was a major consideration in companies’ decision to move to that state.

HOBSON: Are you saying then that companies decided to go to Indiana, for example, because there’s less union membership in Indiana?

SNYDER: No, and I don’t want to speak for the companies but it is very clear that companies are looking at Indiana that previously did not.


HOBSON: Well, make that connection though. You’re saying that, by not requiring workers to pay union dues, that therefore companies are going to be more attracted to the state. Why would that be?

SNYDER: Well, that’s a question for the companies but there is a strong sense, and companies do look at that. That’s something we’ve suffered here.


HOBSON: Union membership has fallen dramatically in Michigan and across the country and it’s not as though that has translated into some boom in employment. I see the point you’re making, but it hasn’t been borne out in the evidence, has it?

SNYDER: Well, it’s been borne out in the Indiana case.

Tennessee has been a right-to-work state since forever, and our unemployment rate has consistently been higher than the national average. In October, we saw a modest decrease to 8.2%, but that was still higher than the national average of 7.9%. Furthermore, many Tennessee counties are still struggling with unemployment at a rate well over 10%.

I don’t understand why, during the whole debate about Michigan ramming right-to-work down peoples’ throats, no one ever asked how RTW is supposed to fix unemployment, and if it indeed does so in states that have these laws. I keep hearing beltway pundits yammer on about stuff like Nissan and VW plants in Tennessee, but there’s just this grand assumption that right-to-work is the #1 reason. You know what else we’ve got? Really, super cheap energy (thank you, big, bad, quasi-government TVA), a moderate climate, and most important, a central location within a day’s drive of 75% of the U.S. From a transportation/get your products to market point of view, that is huge.


Curious. Right to work for thee but not for me?

ALTO, MI – Michigan House Democrats are calling an assistant majority floor leader a hypocrite for proposing an amendment that would have exempted her husband from right-to-work bills that lawmakers passed, and Gov. Snyder then signed into law.

State Rep. Lisa Posthumus Lyons, R-Alto, was among right-to-work supporters quoted in The New York Times on Tuesday, Dec. 11, saying “this is the day that Michigan freed its workers.” But she also proposed to add corrections officers to the list of public employees – including police and fire – not covered by the right-to-work law.

The amendment was gaveled down and did not come up for a vote.

If right to work is so awesome, how come the GOP always want to exempt police and firefighters? And how come this Republiweasel tried to exempt her husband?


Filed under employment, unions

Lifestyles Of The Lazy & Unemployed

If only they’d show more initiative, eh Republicans?

They are proud, but not too proud to stand for hours. They are tired, but not so fatigued that they didn’t start turning out before sunrise to participate in a job fair scheduled to start at 11 a.m. with the promise of 3,300 positions. The work is varied, and it is coveted. By the time the fair ends, an estimated 6,000 people will stand in this line.


(NECN: Melissa Toupin: Worcester, Mass.) – 3,013 people attended a job fair on Tuesday sponsored by U.S. Sen. Scott Brown — about 1,000 more than attended a similar event in October.

Potential job-seekers stood elbow-to-elbow at Worcester State University.

Clementine Viga of Worcester has been looking for a steady job since she graduated from college in 2009 and is finding that she’s competing against people with doctorates.

Some came from as far away as New Hampshire, like Deb Lund, who is looking for a job in the medical field.

And wake up Tennessee, Florence, SC is showing they’re hungry! More than 1,200 job applicants showed up for 530 potential new jobs that don’t even exist yet. Agero hasn’t decided where it’s going to locate its new call center yet, but held the jobs fair so they could give the workforce the once-over:

The job fair will be useful to Agero if it does decide to locate the 529-job center here – Agero officials will have a big pile of resumes it can sift through — but Monday’s event was more about guaging the depth of the local job market than locating actual hires.

OH. Hope those 1,200 eager applicants didn’t have their hopes up. Because c’mon Clarksville, Tennessee! Represent!

Agero is still weighing the charms of Florence against those of Clarksville, Tenn., a city some 133,000 in northern Tennessee between Nashville and Ft. Campbell, Ky. Agero will hold a similiar fair in two weeks in Clarksville. The results of the two fairs will weigh on the company’s decision, which is imminent. Agero officials said Monday they wanted to be picking up phones in a new call center by June.

Dust off those resumes and get those suits dry-cleaned, Clarksville. Agero has come a-courting. Let’s show those 1,200 hungry people in South Carolina what Clarksville’s got.

Republicans really need to stop telling everyone the unemployed are lazy, enjoying a life of luxury off their unemployment benefits. Not with headlines like these in the news every day.


Filed under unemployment

The Republican Welfare Gravy Train Rolls On

Ah, Christmas! The time Tennessee Republicans decide to start hating on the poor:

Sen. Stacey Campfield, R-Knoxville, said he plans to push three bills calling for drug testing in the 2012 legislative session – one dealing with persons on welfare, one for those drawing unemployment compensation and one for those receiving workers’ compensation benefits.

Shadow Governor Ron Ramsey is already on record saying he thinks drug-testing the poor and unemployed is a great idea. Campfield and Ramsey need to explain how getting injured on the job is “a lifestyle,” though. That one really confuses me. Also, how do you drug test those folks? I’m thinking some of them might be on medication because, y’know, injured on the job? Hello? But I’m sure they’ll figure it all out.

True to form, Gov. Haslam has said he wants us to think very carefully about such an idea. Oh, indeed. Yes, we’ll think very carefully and then we’ll go ahead and do it anyway. I think I’ve seen this movie before. Gov. Goofball will wait an appropriate amount of time, during which he will supposedly consider all of the who’s, what’s and where’s, after which he will fold like a lawnchair and announce with that shit-eating grin of his that all of the due process has been done and yes we will treat people suffering under Republican policies of tax cuts for millionaires and outsourcing jobs to China as criminals. Just you wait.

If you hadn’t noticed, this is one of those ALEC-crafted ideas working its way through legislatures in all of the red states. Why? Because forensic drug companies want to feed at the taxpayer trough, that’s why.

I find it very strange that Republicans don’t believe government can do anything right … except decide who can marry, who can raise children, what you can watch on TV, what books you can read, which religion is the right one, when life begins, how much compensation is enough if you are injured by corporate negligence, and if your pee is pure enough to collect your unemployment which, by the way, is a benefit you paid for. Government is great at all of that stuff.

Go figure.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed a similar measure earlier this year and is now embroiled in a string of lawsuits. After he signed the bill into law it was revealed that Scott had transferred his ownership of Solantic, a chain of walk-in clinics that performs drug screenings, into his wife’s name days before his inauguration. Isn’t that convenient! Then he went on to claim he had “no interest” in the company.

So who stands to gain in Tennessee? Look no further than Tennessee Republican Congress Critter Diane Black, whose husband is CEO of Aegis Sciences, a company which does drug testing. Former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist is on Aegis’ board of directors — presumably advising the company on how to screen for drugs via videotape. /snark

It’s all so very cozy, isn’t it? Speaking of cozy, let’s remember that Rick Scott used to be in charge of the Frist family’s hospital corporation, before getting ousted by the board when the company pled guilty to massively defrauding the government. You’d think a guilty plea and $1.7 billion fraud settlement would ensure this asshole never shows his face around Republican Party circles again, but sadly no: Republicans always fall upwards. Scott somehow became governor of Florida. Go figure.

Anyway, Florida’s pee-in-a-cup law has been temporarily suspended. Now there’s even a class action lawsuit. Way to go, governor! Maybe we should wait and see how these cases shake out before Tennessee signs on the bottom line, ya think?

And by all means, let’s also look at how much this has cost the State of Florida, not even including the state’s legal defense. In its first six weeks, only two people tested positive for drugs, and one of those cases was appealed. It’s cost more to screen for drugs than they saved by denying two people benefits. Woopsies.

So it appears the poor and unemployed of Florida are not, in fact, all drug using welfare queens. Hmm. What about Tennessee, though? Surely our poor are all dopeheads and burnouts, right? Surely they must be because Tennessee Republicans can’t imagine why anyone would be suffering in this glorious economy they created. I mean think about it: they spent two years doing nothing but making sure women’s access to abortion is nearly impossible, access to guns is nearly ubiquitous, President Obama’s birth certificate is questioned, so-called “Obamacare” is declared unconstitutional, teachers’ unions lose their collective bargaining rights, and so-called “tort reform.”

Amazingly, after all of this hard work and effort, the free market ponies have failed to appear. Tennessee’s jobless rate continues to exceed the national average. Clearly the fault must be with the unemployed!

Here’s what I wish. I really don’t expect Republicans to stop hating on the poor, but I do wish our media would stop acting like the poor don’t exist. Next time a conservative clown like Newt Gingrich, Ron Ramsey, or Herman Cain says some incomprehensibly stupid thing about poor people being lazy drug users, please, I beg of you: go find a poor person and ask them about their life. I mean, it really can’t be that hard, can it?

Because all I hear from the media is a long, string of right-wing fairy tales about poor people taking Hawaiian vacations with their food stamps. Please do not repeat such nonsense without also talking to a poor person and asking them if that’s even feasible (it’s not).

I think the rich Republican assholes have had the mic long enough. If Ron Ramsey and Stacy Campfield want to demand unemployed people pee in a cup before collecting their benefits, I want to hear from the people actually affected by such a policy.

Please tell us these peoples’ stories. I want to know why they are on welfare, how many jobs they work, how many kids they’re feeding, what they spend their money on. If they are unemployed, why. If they got injured on the job, what happened.

I’m thinking we need to shed a little reality on this fiction the Republicans are spreading.


Filed under poverty, Tennessee, TNGOP

For The Birds

A couple weeks ago a friend forwarded along this hilarious video sent him by a wingnut buddy. You can now see it over at FunnyOrDie.com.

It’s one of those tortured analogies people often devise to justify being assholes. Here’s this guy comparing his bird feeder to unemployment benefits. He put up “da boid feedah” and ach! Da boids, dey made a mess! On da patio! And next to da bahbecue! And da poop! Everywhere! And da boids, some of ’em, dey turned mean! Dive bombin’ and everythin’, dese ungrateful asshole boids! Ach! After all I’d done for ’em, too! Offa my lawn! I took down de boid feedah and problem solved! No more poop! Yay!

And this, my friends, is how we solve the unemployment problem! Just stop giving people unemployment benefits and they magically go away. Amiright?

Hilarious. Funnily enough, I happened to watch this video on the same day that I had gone down to my local retailer and picked up about 50 pounds of bird seed for my own feeders. So as I’m filling my feeders and hearing my avian friends chirp excitedly in the trees I thought to myself: you know what? I’ve been feeding birds in my backyard for years and I’ve just never had these problems. I don’t have bird nests in inappropriate places, nor is my patio covered in bird poop. And none of my birds have ever dive-bombed us when the feeders are low. Funnily enough, I just have never had this man’s experience with the local wildlife. I wonder why. Maybe, just maybe, this tortured analogy was pulled out of somewhere other than reality.

It’s a popular wingnut myth that, during the Second Great Depression when unemployment has been stuck at a stubborn 10% or so (and is most certainly higher than that, because people who have given up looking are no longer counted), somehow people have no jobs because they’re lazy. Somehow, people who have never had to take unemployment are just convinced that the benefits are so generous that people would rather sit back in the La-Z-Boy and just wait for those checks to roll in than get off their asses and work for a living.

Indeed, this week we heard that same idea from Tennessee’s own smug, self-righteous Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, aka the “Shadow Governor,” referring to unemployment benefits as “a lifestyle” because someone told him there are jobs but no applicants out there.

Hey, Ron Ramsey: I’m going to call bullshit on that little anecdote. Mr. Ramsey needs to pony up here. You know of someone with job openings? Give us their name and phone number. Put it in the paper. Betcha anything they will be overwhelmed with applicants, just like the 5,000 people who showed up for 1,600 jobs at Nissan this week.

I dare you. No, I double dare you.

You know what else I’m calling bullshit on? This:

Ramsey’s event also spotlighted his http://www.TNRedtape.com Web site documenting anti-business state government decisions.


“The ironic part about this is we will have some people get on the Web site and call us and then we will ask ‘Can we use this publicly?’” Ramsey said of the information collected by the Web site. “Most people don’t want to be cited publicly. … They are dealing with the Department of Revenue, the Department of Environment and Conservation, and think there will be repercussions.”

Really? Well, I guess if you say so, then! Clearly government is the problem, not the solution, says the man who has devoted months to gun nuts and blocking peoples’ voting rights, but didn’t do one thing to actually help the state’s employment situation. We’ll just take your word for it! Unless, like our friend with “da boid feedah,” you’re just making shit up. Wouldn’t put it past you one bit, either. But we’ll never know!

Hey guess what: I have this super-secret story too, about how all of the knuckle-dragging homophobic Muslim-hating Neanderthals in our state legislature have kept businesses away from the state of Tennessee. Someone whose name rhymes with “Pierrot Brevada.” But when I asked them if I could go public with it, they all said they didn’t want to be cited publicly, either.

What a coinky-dinky.

Here’s a thought: let’s stop blaming people in desperate straights straits for the economic situation. Let’s recognize that we are in the middle of the Second Great Depression right now. Taking away people’s unemployment benefits is not going to solve the unemployment problem. It’s just going to inhibit people’s ability to buy food, medicine and pay their rent. How that’s supposed to solve anything, I have no clue.


Filed under right wing, Ron Ramsey, unemployment