Grasping at straws

Published 10:08 am Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Daily Herald editorial

President Obama demonstrated this week how utterly clueless he is about life outside of Washington, D.C., when he proposed a law that would ban employers from discriminating against the unemployed in making hiring decisions. It is one of those ideas that sounds good but which any employer would quickly point out is not only unworkable but downright destructive.

Acting on rumors that some employers avoid hiring people who have been unemployed for a long time (we say “rumors” because the president presented no evidence that such so-called discrimination occurs regularly), the president suggested that job-seekers who believe they were not hired for a job because they are unemployed should be able to sue the company which did not hire them.

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That idea ignores the possibility that some people have been unemployed for a long time because their lack of aptitude, training or appropriate attitude make them a bad risk for any employer. And the idea of “unemployment discrimination” creates a fertile field for job seekers to launch federal law suits — a potentially more lucrative business than actually holding a job. To avoid the risk of such so-called discrimination, employers would conceivably be unable to even ask applicants about their work history for fear of learning that the applicant has been or is unemployed. On what basis, then, could any hiring decision be made? Almost none.

We recognize that the president is under intense pressure to do something about the nation’s stagnant economy and high unemployment. It is, however, tremendously disappointing that Mr. Obama has gone so far as to propose an utterly impractical and unworkable law as a remedy. Were the president’s proposed unemployment discrimination law to ever take effect, it would be tremendously destructive to the very businesses through which he must hope to strengthen the economy.

Even the president’s most ardent supporters need not be blamed for growing doubts about the abilities of the nation’s leader to govern capably. Ideas like “unemployment discrimination” suggest that the president is grasping at straws.