Blogs > Steve Hochstadt > Dumb, Lazy Americans

Aug 4, 2020

Dumb, Lazy Americans

tags: social welfare,COVID-19,unemployment insurance

Steve Hochstadt has been writing weekly op-eds since 2009. His collection, Freedom of the Press in Small-Town America: My Opinions, will be published this fall. He taught history at Bates College and Illinois College for 37 years.

The $600 per week unemployment payment to more than 20 million Americans suffering the worst economic crisis of our time is over. Everyone knew it would end on July 31, but only the Democratic House has developed a plan to prevent those millions from falling further downwards. They passed their bill in May and have been waiting for Republicans to get their act together.

Republicans acted like they believed Trump’s dreams about recovery, so did nothing. Now they have broken into three factions: ultraconservatives who don’t want to give those families anything; moderate conservatives who think $600 a week is much too much; and Trump, who wants to spend millions to rebuild the FBI building near his hotel, so another hotel doesn’t appear there. But they all agree on one thing: $600 a week is so much money that many Americans will happily collect it, sit at home, and do nothing, instead of getting a job. That would slow down the economic recovery, which is necessary for Republicans to have any chance in November. Lazy Americans need to be forced to go to work.

The dumb part is a bit more subtle. At whatever level Democrats and Republicans agree on, these government payments will run out soon. Unemployment is over 10%. The job market is not likely to get much better for months. It will be hard to get a job, not just like the one from before the crisis, but any job. A job now, even if it pays less than $600 a week, $30,000 a year, would be much preferable to a few more weeks of “vacation” with no prospects in sight. A Brookings paper from June stated: “We find no evidence so far in support of the view that high UI replacement rates drove job losses or slowed rehiring substantially.” Republican politicians ignore the research and believe that those lazy Americans are too dumb to figure that out.

This is peculiar, because everyone also knows that white non-college working (or recently working) families are the most faithful Republican voters. Yet Republican leaders don’t worry that calling them dumb and lazy, as well as screwing them financially, will alienate them. There is nothing new about this Republican attitude toward unemployed and underemployed and poorly paid Americans. I guess they know best what appeals to their base.

But I think it’s ironic that the best place to look for dumb, lazy Americans is not on Main Street but in the White House. How else to explain that our President, as his election prospects vanish because of his inability to deal seriously with the corona crisis, takes center stage to advocate the medical advice of Dr. Stella Immanuel, whose videos teach us that gynecological illnesses are caused by sex dreams with demons? When asked about her medical qualifications, he responded, “I don’t know anything about her.”

How dumb and lazy is that? This is what the White House knows, with the greatest arsenal of information gatherers the world has ever seen? This is the quality of work we can expect from the President and his staff?

Immanuel broke into online consciousness on Monday, July 27, by standing in front of the Supreme Court with some people posing in white coats who called themselves “America’s Frontline Doctors”, promoting hydroxychloroquine as a cure for coronavirus, and saying, “You don’t need masks”. That was enough information for Trump and his son Donald Trump, Jr., to promote the video on their Twitter accounts. That night, Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter deleted the video from their platforms as misinformation about the coronavirus. The big hitters on FOX, Hannity, Carlson, and Ingraham all immediately came to Immanuel’s defense on Tuesday with lies about her critics, but silence on aliens and demons.

When a reporter asked Trump on Tuesday about this, he said her “voice was an important voice” for all of us to hear. He seemed to play dumb: “I don’t know why they took her off.” Trump had to run off the stage when confronted with his claim that Immanuel is “spectacular”. After a day to absorb the universal scorn of media around the world, Trump repeated on Wednesday that he was “very impressed” by Immanuel. Maybe he wasn’t playing.

It took me less than five minutes to find out that Dr. Immanuel has announced that extraterrestrials run our government and their DNA is used in medical treatments, that the Illuminati are using witches to destroy the world through abortion, gay marriage, and Harry Potter, and that she is a Tea Party fan. She also warns us that some doctors, presumably the ones who say she is a dangerous fake, are trying to create a vaccine to make people immune from becoming religious. It took a few more minutes to find out that “America’s Frontline Doctors” include a variety of practitioners and former practitioners with little documented experience treating COVID-19, but sharing far-right political ideologies and support for Trump.

Slicing up the safety net for the unemployed, promoting ineffective drugs against the pandemic, praising nutty doctors who tout unproven results, and never retreating from previous stupid statements appear to be Trump’s campaign strategy, cheered on by his fellow geniuses in right-wing media.

That seems dumb and lazy to me. Maybe paying someone else to take his SAT’s was the smartest thing Trump could do.

Because you can’t fix stupid.

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