A site of satirical musings, commentary and/or rhetorical criticism of the world at large.

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Location: Southeastern, Pennsylvania, United States

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Whole Story – Part One: The Opaque Tom Corbett

Current Pennsylvania state Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Tom Corbett got himself in and out of hot water recently. During a campaign stop in the state, he attempted to justify the congressional Republicans blocking an extension of unemployment benefits to millions of unemployed Americans. Corbett claimed that he heard from several employers who offered jobs to unemployed workers, only to be rebuffed with the explanation that the workers would come back after their benefits ran out. The candidate explained that an extension would add to the federal deficit, and it only encourages people to live off the dole.

Why would Corbett say such a thing in the first place? His concern for increasing the deficit is, I’ll admit, admirable, but unfortunately his justification is suspect. It is reminiscent of the time when Ronald Reagan aide Edwin Meese stated that people on welfare are there because they want to be there. This logic involves denying that certain people are beyond help from others. Those that follow this thinking can use it to repress the ethical and moral responsibility civilized men share about easing the suffering of others. This attitude allows those with an extreme conservative agenda to sleep well at night with a clear conscience.

I’m not going to pounce on Corbett any more than everyone else did — namely Governor Rendell, Corbett’s Democratic opponent Dan Onorato, various state agency heads, and a number of unemployed Pennsylvanians who rightly took offense at Corbett’s comments. After all, Corbett did apologize and retract his statement from the “are there no prisons, are there no workhouses?” school of social justice. What I do find objectionable is Corbett’s refusal to identify his sources. Who were these employers with job offers? Why shouldn’t their names be made public? Corbett’s stubborn withholding of the whole story was a missed opportunity on several fronts.

First, identification of the employers could have helped these companies connect with any number of job hunters who are ready to go back to work. This connection could have happened through state employment agencies, private employment agencies, or by the individuals contacting these employers themselves. So presumably, thanks to Corbett’s silence, these positions could go unfilled.

Then there are the workers — Corbett heard this “story” from more than one employer — who rejected the job offers. I hate to nit-pick, but isn’t it illegal for them to turn down any reasonable offer? If Corbett had furnished names, the Pennsylvania state unemployment service could have terminated the benefits of these scofflaws.

My use of the word “reasonable” is a key concept. To be fair, if the offered position was only temporary, or with such a low pay rate as to make it impossible for the prospective employee to meet their financial obligations (i.e., mortgage, food, transportation, health needs, etc.), then the rejection could be understandable. The name of the game, after all, is not to get rich from unemployment, but to keep your head above troubling financial waters.

Corbett could have also used the employers as a symbol to exploit for the upcoming race for governor. John McCain had his “Joe the Plumber”. Corbett could have had “Joe the Plumber’s Employer”. A wonderful bourgeois campaign opportunity squandered!

Finally, and most importantly, Corbett’s refusal damaged his credibility. When I was writing my masters thesis, I had to justify every argument I used. Reporters are sometimes obligated to name their sources. Why should politicians like Corbett be above this standard? It leaves him open to questions that he possibly made the whole thing up just to score political points with his base.

Tom Corbett really did a disservice to the people of Pennsylvania and himself when he refused to release the names of the employers who claimed that their job offers to unemployed workers were refused. This incident may demonstrate that, as governor, Tom Corbett won’t be transparent — which suddenly has become a litmus test within the federal government - but rather opaque. Sleep tight, Mr. Corbett!

(Thank you for reading. Now get off your butts and get a job! Ha ha! Just kidding! Relax!)


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