Yo, GOP – people want to work

Senator Tim Scott speaks during a press conference at the South Carolina Emergency Management Division. Behind him is Senator Lindsey Graham.

Jeff Blake

The State

In college, I once attended a rape prevention class in which the instructor advised women on what to do if attacked.


Fight back.


What if that doesn’t work? one woman asked.

“Kick him in the (private parts) as hard as you can.”

What if he keeps chasing you? she asked.

“What kind of men do you know?” the instructor asked incredulously.

That’s what we should ask Republican senators who oppose extending unemployment benefits to people made jobless by Covid-19. They oppose extending $600 weekly payments because, they fear, when it’s added to their regular unemployment payment, some people may actually make more from not working than they would from their regular gig.

They would thus, Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., said, be “disincentivized” from working.

What kind of men and women do you know in South Carolina, senator? Not the kind I know in North Carolina.

Growing up in Rockingham, I spent waaaaaay too much time hanging out in poolrooms, where the main topic of conversation among the men – after women, baseball and basketball – was work.

These men toiled at the most unglamorous and – before the ‘rona – dangerous jobs imaginable, yet they couldn’t leave them behind. Many were lint heads from the textile mills, and they’d often show up to shoot pool and the breeze with the lint still in their heads.

Don’t even get me started on the people who toiled at the local chicken plant, fingers so gnarled and stiff from pulling craws – don’t ask – in a refrigerated building that they could barely hold a pool cue.

Yet, even when they cursed their bosses – a time-honored American tradition – the pride these poolroom habitués had in jobs that allowed them to buy homes and take care of their families was unmistakable.

When Sen. Graham vowed that he would die before providing extra payments to the jobless beyond July, I thought about those men. I thought about William.

Remember in Lonesome Dove, the greatest Western ever made, when Deets was killed and Capt. Woodrow F. Call carved an epitaph into a wooden cross? It read, in part, “Cheerful in all weathers.”

That was William. Rain, sleet or snow, he was a human alarm clock waking me up for school. My bedroom was right next to the street, and before daylight I’d hear him hurryingly stepping, hunched against the elements, protected against those elements often by just a white t-shirt.

A 2019 CNBC/SurveyMonkey survey showed that 85 percent of workers were very or somewhat satisfied with their jobs,. I’m guessing William was, too, because he was often, astonishingly to me, whistling jauntily en route to his job at the iron foundry.

Sure, some may be leery of returning to work if they know they’re putting their lives in danger – because, say, some selfish jerk claims a constitutional right to endanger everyone else’s health by not wearing a mask when ordering a giant mocha latte – but I have enough confidence in the American worker to think that most can’t wait to get back to the grind.

My friend William is gone now, but there remain millions like him, hard-working Americans made jobless through no fault of their own. Shame on Graham, Scott et al for begrudging them this temporary lifeline.

“I promise you, over our dead bodies will this get reauthorized,” Graham said of government aid past July. “We’ve got to stop this. You cannot turn on the economy until you get this aberration of the law fixed.”

I’m no economist, but I’m guessing that neither can one “turn on the economy” if there are no jobs or everybody’s dead.

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