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April 30, 2012 at 10:02 AM

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The politics of "Get a job"

Gubernatorial candidate Rob McKenna said it. My conservative grandma has said it too. They say it like whoever they're speaking to isn't working hard enough, isn't working as hard as they do.

This week, when confronted by a woman about whether he supported the failed Reproductive Parity Act, McKenna responded by telling the woman to "go get a job."

I've heard conservatives say it plenty about people in the lower classes, particularly those who are homeless. "Why don't they just get a job?" usually followed by some sort of diatribe about people "feeding off" of the welfare system. Let me be clear, this sentence didn't come from McKenna, but others have used the same phrase. They say it with this snark, like feeding people who would otherwise starve is a bad thing; there's no compassion for those who aren't as well off. It is entitlement, it is classist and it needs to stop.

The moment we start dehumanizing others is where bipartisanship ends.

There's no caring or understanding in the phrase, "go get a job."

For most of my life my dad has been in and out of jobs. He works hard, but this modern world hasn't set us up for careers like previous generations.

I'm about to graduate and a study released last weekend showed that one in two college grads can't land a job or are underemployed.

Go get a job? I'm trying. If you didn't know, the economy still isn't doing very well.

Go get a job? That homeless guy on the street—you don't know his story. Maybe he lost his job in this Great Recession. After all, one third of Americans are living paycheck-to-paycheck. Nearly two-thirds said if fired today they would not be able to make housing payments after five months.

I remember being at a bus stop when I was in high school. A homeless man approached me for change and we struck up a conversation. I later learned that he had once attended my high school, a private college-prep school, and had to drop out of studying engineering at a university because of tuition increases.

Go get a job? He had nowhere to stay; his parents didn't want him, he was gay. Some shelters let you list their address on job applications, others don't. It's difficult to get a job without an address.

You can't assume things about others, because you just don't know.

This woman McKenna commented on—she has a job! Kendra Obom works for the YMCA on youth programs. She's also a volunteer for the state Democratic Party.

She asks a question he disagrees with, he gets angry, and assumedly he thinks she has nothing better to do with her time than ask a gubernatorial candidate a question about an issue that matters to her. So he assumes she has no job? With fly-off-the-handle logical jumps like that, I'm concerned.

"You're just trying to gain a political advantage," McKenna said. "Sorry, go get a job."

Is that going to be McKenna's answer to our economic problems? That the unemployed need to just "get a job?" That those who ask him tough questions and might disagree with him are wasting their time?

Most people are working hard to get by in this down economy. McKenna better be prepared to answer tough questions and not look down on those who disagree with him if he wants the governor's job this November.

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