Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) hit upon a popular Republican theme when he told a crowd at a conservative think tank that unemployed Americans just don’t want to work, and would rather “just sit around.”
Fittingly, it was in response to a question about Paul Ryan’s so-called poverty plan, because it was Ryan who most eloquently summed up the idea Boehner was trying to convey. During a Q&A session at the American Enterprise Institute, Boehner was asked to comment on Ryan’s plans to expand the earned income tax credit, and reform mandatory minimum sentencing laws. He explained that we have a responsibility to bring “these people” (the unemployed?) back into the “mainstream of America, and that “this idea that’s been born over the last, maybe out of the economy, over the last couple of years, that ‘You know, I don’t really have to work, you know, I don’t really want to do this, I think I’d just rather sit around,’ this is a very sick idea for our country.”
He then went on to explain that all Americans should have a business-owning parent who’s willing to exploit child labor:
For those of you without a family-owned business to work in, the theory here is that the promise of an earned income tax credit will counteract the culture of not-work that so many of these people are clearly laying around in, not working. Some liberals are taking Boehner’s remark as a slam at all unemployed people, but given the context of the question, it really seems more like he was talking about certain people who don’t work. He wasn’t asked about unemployment insurance or the unemployment rate, he was asked about Ryan’s poverty plan, and he didn’t cite the unemployment rate, he was clearly talking about the labor participation rate.
Sure, that includes discouraged workers, retirees, and people who voluntarily left the workforce because they could afford to, but again, he was asked about Ryan’s poverty plan, so all of those people can reasonably assume Boehner wasn’t talking about them. Even without that context, though, Republicans have this knack for slamming people who are struggling, yet letting the right people know that they’re not talking about them. That’s what many liberals don’t get when they go on about conservatives voting against their own interests: the Republican appeal isn’t to people who don’t benefit from government programs, it’s to people who don’t think those other people deserve to benefit from government programs.