Olbermann Cherry-picks Gingrich, Accuses GOP of Blaming Unemployed for Bad Economy

Keith Olbermann on Thursday cherry-picked an article by former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich to make a pathetic case that Republicans are targeting and blaming unemployed Americans for the country's economic woes.

In his opening "Countdown" segment on MSNBC, the host began, "When it came time to invade, Republicans used cherry-picked intelligence to make the case for war in Iraq. Now, they`re using cherry-picked intelligence to wage war on the middle class."

Particularly in Olbermann's crosshairs was Gingrich who the "Countdown" host claimed "targeted one individual American who`s struggling to make ends meet and held him up as part of the problem."

Ironically, it was Olbermann that was guilty of cherry-picking as he quoted a very tiny portion of a Human Events article the former Speaker wrote Wednesday (video follows with commentary and full transcript at conclusion):

After showing clips of various Republicans talking about how extending unemployment benefits reduces the incentive for those out of work to accept jobs being offered to them - including positions that pay them less than they were previously making as well as below what they're getting on unemployment - Olbermann went after Gingrich:

KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST: But now, as we mentioned, Republicans have targeted one individual American who`s struggling to make ends meet and held him up as part of the problem. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich writing yesterday, quote, "The extension of unemployment benefits has given people a perverse incentive to stay on unemployment rather than accept a job."

He continued "`The Wall Street Journal` quotes an engineer who admits he turned down more than a dozen offers because the salary would have been less than he made on welfare. This story encapsulates the problem of the long-term unemployed, the depth and length of this recession is at risk of creating a permanent pool of unemployed Americans who get so used to being unproductive that they are willing to accept welfare indefinitely instead of taking a job."

The man who turned down those offers will tell his own side of the story in just a minute and the reasons for turning down a job are not always as simple as Mr. Gingrich is.

"The Journal" interviewed Rick Helliwell about his company`s difficulty finding people, quote, "The jobs require a little more than a high school diploma and fluency in English. They include free accommodation of medical care and starting pay of about $30,000 a year. Mr. Helliwell speculates that Americans might be hesitant to move to Dubai where the jobs are based."

Speculates -- you might add other possible reasons for giving up a job, such as -- saving the country, or because Republicans thought you unfit to work.

Gingrich was referring to an article in the Wall Street Journal published Monday entitled, "Some Firms Struggle to Fill Jobs Despite High Unemployment":

With a 9.5% jobless rate and some 15 million Americans looking for work, many employers are inundated with applicants. But a surprising number say they are getting an underwhelming response, and many are having trouble filling open positions.

"This is as bad now as at the height of business back in the 1990s," says Dan Cunningham, chief executive of the Long-Stanton Manufacturing Co., a maker of stamped-metal parts in West Chester, Ohio, that has been struggling to hire a few toolmakers. "It's bizarre. We are just not getting applicants."

Employers and economists point to several explanations. Extending jobless benefits to 99 weeks gives the unemployed less incentive to search out new work. Millions of homeowners are unable to move for a job because the real-estate collapse leaves them owing more on their homes than they are worth.

Later in the piece came this:

Some workers agree that unemployment benefits make them less likely to take whatever job comes along, particularly when those jobs don't pay much. Michael Hatchell, a 52-year-old mechanic in Lumberton, N.C., says he turned down more than a dozen offers during the 59 weeks he was unemployed, because they didn't pay more than the $450 a week he was collecting in benefits. One auto-parts store, he says, offered him $7.75 an hour, which amounts to only $310 a week for 40 hours.

"I was not going to put myself in a situation where I was making that small of a wage," says Mr. Hatchell. He has since found a better-paying job at a different auto-parts dealer.

With this in mind, Gingrich wrote in his piece Wednesday entitled "Indisputable Failure":

An article in the Wall Street Journal Monday painted a frustrating picture of the joblessness situation, showing that, despite our high unemployment, many firms are having trouble filling job openings. According to the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, if job openings were getting filled at a normal rate, the unemployment rate would be 6.8% instead of 9.5%.

So there are actually many jobs out there that need to be filled. Yet, in the worst recession since the Great Depression, many employers can't make hires.

The article cites several reasons for this phenomenon, a few of which are long term trends such as our education system not producing enough qualified engineers. But others factors fall squarely on the backs of this administration and Congress.

For instance, the extension of unemployment benefits has given people a perverse incentive to stay on unemployment rather than accept a job. The part-owner of a machine parts company, Mechanical Devices, is looking for as many as 40 new engineers, but is quoted in the article as saying many applicants at job fairs were "just going through the motions so they could collect their unemployment checks." The article also quotes an engineer who admits he turned down more than a dozen offers because the salary would have been less than he made on welfare.

This story encapsulates the problem of the long-term unemployed. The depth and length of this recession is at risk of creating a permanent pool of unemployed Americans, who get so used to being unproductive that they are willing to accept welfare indefinitely instead of taking a job.

Readers should notice that Gingrich NEVER mentioned Hatchell's name. Isn't it difficult to "target" someone without saying his or her name?

In fact, the Hatchells didn't even know about what Gingrich said until Olbermann's crew informed them and invited the couple on the show to discuss it.

Kind of makes it look like they were actually targeted by Olbermann and NOT Gingrich.

Making the "Countdown" host's position even weaker, Gingrich's unnamed reference to Hatchell represented one sentence in a 1300-word article!

I guess that qualifies as "targeting" in Olbermann's world.

In reality, if the "Countdown" host wanted to point fingers, he should have done so at the Journal and not someone referring to one of its articles.

Yet, such logic didn't prevent Olbermann from attacking Gingrich and other Republicans.

But what was most fascinating about this lengthy segment is that it ended up proving Gingrich and the GOP's point.

As Olbermann spoke to Mike and Sarah Hatchell, they admitted that he turned down job offers because they would have paid him less than what he was making on unemployment.

Now, the harsh reality for this couple and many in this situation is that such a pay cut might force them out of their homes.

However, the conservative argument is that this is still a disincentive for such folk to accept gainful employment that could put them in a better position of getting a higher-paying job in the future. History has shown people that are working actually have a greater likelihood of being offered a job than those that aren't.

More importantly, as the Journal noted Monday:

If the job market were working normally-that is, if openings were getting filled as they usually do-the U.S. should have about five million more gainfully employed people than it does, estimates David Altig, research director at the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. That would correspond to an unemployment rate of 6.8%, instead of 9.5%. 

And that's coming from someone working for the Fed.

With this in mind, not only were Olbermann's accusations concerning Gingrich and Republicans targeting "one individual American who`s struggling to make ends meet and held him up as part of the problem" completely false, this segment actually proved what the Journal and conservatives have been claiming about the downside of extending unemployment benefits.

Nice try, Keith! 

Full transcript:

KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST: Good evening from New York.

When it came time to invade, Republicans used cherry-picked intelligence to make the case for war in Iraq. Now, they`re using cherry- picked intelligence to wage war on the middle class.

In our fifth story tonight: without the cloak of national security to hide behind, Republicans are about to meet one member of the middle class who is fighting back.

We asked him to come on tonight because it is the first time in this "blame the unemployed" strategy from the right that we can recall Republicans targeting an individual American.

For months, Republican politicians have argued that extending unemployment benefits will slow job growth, because Americans would rather take a handout.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You`re clearly going to dampen the capacity of that growth if you basically keep an economy which encourages people to, rather than go out and look for work, to stay on unemployment.

OLBERMANN: Two Republican --

SEN. JON KYL (R), ARIZONA: Continuing to pay people unemployment compensation is a disincentive for them to seek new work.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

OLBERMANN: Two Republican candidates for Senate have gone further and said that Americans should start accepting lower salaries.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

RON JOHNSON (R), WISCONSIN SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: When you continue to extend unemployment benefits, people really don`t have the incentive to go take other jobs. You know, they`ll just wait the system out until their benefits run out, then they`ll go out and take, probably not as high-paying jobs as they would like to take, but that`s how you have to get back to work.

SHARRON ANGLE (R), NEVADA SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: You can make more money on unemployment than you can going down and getting one of those jobs that is an honest job, but it doesn`t pay as much. And so, that`s what`s happened to us, is that we have put in so much entitlement into our government that we really have spoiled our citizenry.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

OLBERMANN: It is the continuation of President Bush`s economic philosophy that American workers should keep working into their old age, that working, you know, three jobs just to make ends meet is fantastic.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m a divorced single mother with three grown adult children. I have one child, Robbie, who is mentally challenged, and I have two daughters.

GEORGE W. BUSH, FMR. U.S. PRESIDENT: Fantastic.

I mean, we are living longer and people are working longer, and the truth of the matter is, elderly baby boomers have got a lot to offer to our society. And we shouldn`t think about giving up our responsibilities in society. Isn`t that right?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That`s right.

BUSH: You don`t have to worry.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That`s good, because I work three jobs and I feel like I contribute --

BUSH: You work three jobs?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Three jobs, yes.

BUSH: Uniquely American, isn`t it? I mean, that is fantastic, that you`re doing that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. Thank you.

BUSH: Get any sleep?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not much. Not much.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: But now, as we mentioned, Republicans have targeted one individual American who`s struggling to make ends meet and held him up as part of the problem. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich writing yesterday, quote, "The extension of unemployment benefits has given people a perverse incentive to stay on unemployment rather than accept a job."

He continued "`The Wall Street Journal` quotes an engineer who admits he turned down more than a dozen offers because the salary would have been less than he made on welfare. This story encapsulates the problem of the long-term unemployed, the depth and length of this recession is at risk of creating a permanent pool of unemployed Americans who get so used to being unproductive that they are willing to accept welfare indefinitely instead of taking a job."

The man who turned down those offers will tell his own side of the story in just a minute and the reasons for turning down a job are not always as simple as Mr. Gingrich is.

"The Journal" interviewed Rick Helliwell about his company`s difficulty finding people, quote, "The jobs require a little more than a high school diploma and fluency in English. They include free accommodation of medical care and starting pay of about $30,000 a year. Mr. Helliwell speculates that Americans might be hesitant to move to Dubai where the jobs are based."

Speculates -- you might add other possible reasons for giving up a job, such as -- saving the country, or because Republicans thought you unfit to work.

This as "The New York Times" reports that yet another Republican politician, South Carolina`s Governor Mark Sanford, has been approved by the Department of Labor to accept stimulus money targeted to expanding that state`s unemployment benefits -- an expansion Governor Sanford once predicted would cause tax increases, but which now appears to have embraced wholeheartedly -- he now appears to have done so -- signing the bill two months ago, expanding those unemployment benefits for his state to the tune of $98 million.

Governor Sanford joining the ranks of other Republican governors who once denounced such stimulus spending before they embraced it, such as Dave Heineman of Nebraska and Georgia`s Sonny Perdue.

But despite the rush of Republicans to embrace the stimulus, most of America seems to have forgotten that it was their party, not President Obama`s, that bailed out Wall Street banks. A new poll finding that more Americans, 47 percent, think President Obama signed the Troubled Asset Relief Program, TARP, into law, only 34 percent know it was actually, shh, President Bush who did it.

And now, as promised, COUNTDOWN exclusive, the man singled out by former Speaker Gingrich, because he in Gingrich`s words, admits he turned down more than a dozen offers because the salary would have been less than he made on welfare, Mike Hatchell joining us from his home in Lumberton, North Carolina, along with his wife, Sara.

Eleven-year-old Wyatt unfortunately visiting family in California, although thrilled, I`m sure, that we`re showing his Science Achievement Award photo on national TV tonight.

Mike and Sarah, thanks for joining us tonight.

MIKE HATCHELL, MECHANIC: Thank you, Keith.

SARA HATCHELL, WIFE OF GOP TARGET: Thank you.

M. HATCHELL: How are you?

OLBERMANN: Let me start with your bio, Mike. You`re at 52 years old now, former law enforcement officer, used to have your own business as a mechanic. You were unemployed for 59 weeks, collected $450 a week in benefits and Mr. Gingrich suggests you got used to being unproductive.

If that`s not true, why did you turn down so many job offers?

M. HATCHELL: Keith, it`s really hard for someone like Mr. Gingrich to understand the fact that when you have a mortgage, off family to support, you have car payments, insurance, everything else, that when you`re going out and looking for a job, you know, and, obviously, it was a job, different jobs that I was looking at that were going to pay probably half of what I`m used to making. So, that was the situation.

I mean, when they`re offering me these jobs, they`re saying, well, this is -- this is going to be a situation where we`re going to start you out at the entry level wage. And I -- obviously, I`ve got some 32 years of experience in the automotive business and it`s kind of hard for me to do that, and then looking also the fact that even at 40 hours at $7.75 an hour or whatever it might, you know, it`s going to total $310, $320 a week. After you pay taxes, everything that comes out, Social Security and everything else, you might be $275, $265 or something like that.

I mean, with the mortgage and everything else, I mean, yes, I was drawing unemployment of $450 a week, which I actually paid into since I was a young man.

OLBERMANN: Right.

HATCHELL: You know, probably at least 35 years. And I felt like that, well, it`s unemployment insurance, it`s not welfare, that Mr. Gingrich has spoken about. And I felt like, well, until such time as I can actually get a gainful job that`s going to help me keep my house, keep my family fed, not necessarily anything other -- you know, expensive, nothing, just doing those basic things, I was not going to take any other job.

OLBERMANN: They seemed to leave out the idea that it is insurance and you did pay into it. That`s sort of -- pay now and don`t get it later.

M. HATCHELL: Yes, sir.

OLBERMANN: If you had -- if you had taken those lower-paying jobs, your family would be considerably worse off now than it actually is, correct?

M. HATCHELL: Yes, sir. I would hate to even think. You know, I mean, with a mortgage payment, if you don`t make the mortgage, I mean, they`re going to come and take the house. And, unfortunately, we`d be out on the streets, you know, God knows doing what, you know?

But, you know -- I mean, it`s just unreal. I mean, that`s all you can do, is try to do the best you can, you know? And when I found a situation where I did have a better offer, of course, I took it. You know, something I knew that would work for me. So --

OLBERMANN: Sarah, let me ask you something, can you weigh in on how you reacted when we brought Mr. Gingrich`s remarks to your attention today?

S. HATCHELL: I was appalled, frankly, that he would even consider welfare being a part of unemployment insurance. I saw my husband beat the streets of Robeson County, a very poor county, to try to find work, to save our home. It`s been a really bad couple of years.

OLBERMANN: Whichever one -- whichever one of you wants to take this, can you give us some idea of your life financially? Meaning, you seem like a typical American family. How is the classic American Dream looking for you right now in terms of your retirement? Your son`s college is coming up in the not-too-distant future -- how`s that looking?

M. HATCHELL: Obviously, I mean, with the unemployment, after 59 weeks without a job, you know, I mean, the IRA accounts, you know, that got drained. We basically have no retirement other than, hopefully, the government will have Social Security. We all know how big that might be in the future.

We`re still struggling. I mean, you know, for not making enough wage and actually keeping everything up, insurance, you know, the mortgage, food on the table, you know. We actually struggle to the point where we lost one car. Not able to make the two car payments, you know, so she had a vehicle and I had a vehicle.

And quite honestly, I mean, we`re still behind on our mortgage. I mean, we`re still trying to make that up, you know, make sure we keep the house. Just haven`t been able to get to the point where we can actually catch up with the back payments that we got behind on. So, it`s really tough, you know?

And we just continue to fight. I mean, I go to work. I feel like as long as I`m working, you know, and I go to work every day, you know, then things are going to get better. And I hope my wife will get a job here soon. You know, she`s been out of work even longer than I have, some 25 or 26 weeks.

So, it`s tough. It`s tough in the South, as we would say. So --

OLBERMANN: Last question, Mike. Is there anything else you`d like to say to Mr. Gingrich or the other Republicans who say that, you know, the unemployed stay that way for the benefits, so that they`re, you know, spoiled or lazy and should take those lower-paying jobs and get off the public dime?

M. HATCHELL: Keith, I think it`s no surprise to us that, as it has been for quite some time, that our politicians are going to use that word, are not in touch with the American people, especially the middle class or the lower class people, because -- I mean, that`s the only thing that`s keeping us going. I mean, when I was on unemployment, I would sit there in front of the television, reading newspaper, look online, to make sure, you know, whether they were going to extend my benefits or not, so I could tell whether or not I need to make other arrangements, maybe find some place to live, you know, or move some place that I could afford to live.

And it was just, it was always tough, you know? I mean, when that`s all you have to depend on, I mean, what are you going to do? Your life is in their hands, pretty much, you know?

And I don`t think there`s anyone out there just drawing unemployment just to be drawing it.

OLBERMANN: Yes.

M. HATCHELL: I mean, obviously, they didn`t ask to be laid off, you know? And as far as I know, it`s still unemployment insurance, and we all pay into that. It should be a situation where anyone who calls it welfare, I don`t understand how he even calls it welfare. While we`re on the term, I don`t mean to speak out of turn, Keith, he was talking about this company that was trying to hire 40 engineers.

OLBERMANN: Yes.

M. HATCHELL: That particular story they read, OK, they were actually machinists that the company was trying to hire, and most of the machinists I know -- I have been in the automotive field all my life -- machinists make considerably more than $13 an hour, that`s what this company was actually offering for a machinist. And I can understand why they wouldn`t accept that. If they`ve been working as machinists, I`m sure their unemployment was either at that level or more, and they were in the same situation that I was where had they taken a lesser paying job, they would have lost everything, you know, even more so than we have, you know?

So, I just think that -- you know, Washington is not in touch with the actual people, I`m afraid. And that`s nothing new. I think it`s always been that way since I was a young child. So, I wish it was different, but it`s not. So --

OLBERMANN: Mike and Sara Hatchell -- I think we`ll take the common sense wisdom of Mike the mechanic over Joe the plumber any day. We thank you for your time and for your willingness to come forward and, obviously, our best wishes to you and the family. Thank you much.

S. HATCHELL: Thank you, Keith.

M. HATCHELL: Thank you, Keith, very much. Thank you for having us on.

OLBERMANN: Our pleasure.

Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard, Associate Editor of NewsBusters, passed away in March of 2014.