A favorite trick of politicians is to work a job for a day — to make the rounds of garbage collection or teach third grade or sling hash in a diner. This is not just a trick; it may, at some level, be helpful, walking a few yards in someone else’s moccasins. A person may have a harder time, however, relating to the unemployed — that is, if the person has never been unemployed. The effects of unemployment can be awful. Those effects include embarrassment, shame, marital strain, broader family tensions, substance abuse, and malaise.
I begin Impromptus today with some comments on unemployment. And I quote King Juan Carlos of Spain, who said in his Christmas message last year, “We cannot accept as normal the anguish of the millions of Spaniards who do not have work.” The United States is not as troubled as Spain, but we have widespread and chronic unemployment, and Republicans ought to hit this hard. Unemployment ought to be a very big deal, as a political issue.
And — to put on my media-bias hat (never really off) — if the president were a Republican, unemployment would be a much bigger issue. The media and others would see to that.
This morning, I have heard from some readers who have been unemployed, and who testify to the problems accompanying this condition. The unemployed are often reluctant to talk about unemployment, owing to shame. Republicans know what it takes to relieve unemployment — to unshackle employers — and they ought to shout about it, daily. This would be morally responsible and (don’t faint) politically smart.