Nothing says respecting the American workforce quite like shoving grandma and grandpa back into it.
Time to Log Off is a weekly series documenting the many ways our political figures show their whole asses online.
Wisconsin Republican Sen. Ron Johnson loves labor. Not capital-L Labor, a movement dedicated to leveling the lopsided power dynamic between employees and employers. No, he hates that kind of labor. What Johnson loves is labor in the sense that he wants more people to work, work, work dammit. Imagine Ebenezer Scrooge in the final part of A Christmas Carol when he yells down at a child to ask what day it is, only this time it’s Ron Johnson screaming at the same child (and their mother) to get a job. Yeah.
This week, during a virtual town hall event for his surprisingly tough re-election campaign, Johnson offered an “innovative” solution to America’s worker shortage — the result of a complicated situation fueled by a shifting series of demands for higher pay and better benefits, and, oh yeah, the fact that there’s been a pandemic on for the past few years. But the fix is simple, Johnson mused. All we need to do is take people who have literally worked their entire adult lives and are only now beginning to enjoy retirement, and just “coax” them back into the workforce.
Sorry grandma, I know you were just settling in at your retirement home in Boca, but it turns out America’s got some manufacturing and retail jobs what need fillin’ and, well, you can still stay on your feet for eight-plus hours a day, right? Great, let’s get you all suited up and ready for work!
Now, this is not the first time Johnson’s floated putting Gran-Gran and Pop-Pop back against the grindstone. He also recommended something similar this spring to fight inflation, while at the same time lamenting the supposedly long-lost days of employees who had a “strong work ethic, initiative, and skill in fixing things.” (Johnson, whose nearly $40 million fortune stems largely from the plastics manufacturing company he inherited from his brother-in-law, is estimated to be the eighth-wealthiest senator in office today.)
As for what he means by trying to “coax” seniors back into the workforce, Johnson recently suggested ending Social Security as a guaranteed entitlement. Which, yeah, positioning himself between a retiree and the money they put away to finance their retirement sure would “coax” (read: force) them to spend their waning days back on the job they thought they were done with for good.
At this point, it’s unclear whether Johnson will win a third term in office, or if current Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes might actually oust the man who wants to see your bubbie and zayde back at work. But I suspect that given how traditionally supportive Wisconsin’s retiree population has been toward Republicans to date, Johnson might want to rethink framing himself as the guy who wants to make granny work. In fact, should he feel compelled to float the idea in a future tele-town hall, I would recommend he simply log off instead.