What was Attorney General Tom Corbett thinking when he made ignorant and insensitive comments suggesting that some jobless Pennsylvanians do not want to return to work while they can still collect unemployment benefits?

The Republican gubernatorial candidate told a public radio reporter during a recent stop in Elizabethtown, Lancaster, that “the jobs are there but if we keep extending unemployment, people are going to just sit there.

“I’ve literally had construction companies tell me, ‘I can’t get people to come back to work until…they say, ‘I’ll come back to work when unemployment runs out,’” Corbett told Pennsylvania Public Radio.

Corbett was rebuked for his remarks, especially by his Democratic rival, Dan Onorato.

“My opponent thinks that what’s wrong with the economy is that Pennsylvanians are lazy and don’t want to work,” said Onorato at a news conference before an audience of union activists and members of the state’s building trades union. “He is simply wrong.”

After coming under fire for his comments, Corbett later retreated from his remarks.

“People perceive it to be insensitive. I didn’t mean it to be insensitive,” said Corbett. “That certainly wasn’t the intention.”

Corbett said he was repeating accounts he had heard from “five, six, seven different people across the state of Pennsylvania, (saying) that they weren’t able to get workers.’

“So there are some jobs out there,” he said. “I didn’t say there are jobs out there for everybody there. I didn’t say it well.”

Corbett needs to understand that the reason why many saw his remarks as insensitive is because it suggested that the unemployed are lazy and don’t want to work.

There is no evidence to support Corbett’s assertions.

We expect an elected official, especially one running for governor, to do his homework and not rely on anecdotal information about the economy.

The fact is that Pennsylvanians face 9.1 percent unemployment in what many economists describe as the worst economy since the Great Depression.

People are struggling to find work.

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Labor, more than 74,000 people in just Philadelphia were unemployed at the end of May.

More than 1 million American households are likely to lose their homes to foreclosure this year.

What these hardworking Americans need is for elected officials to offer policies and programs that will help spur job creation so they can return to work and not to stereotype them because they are now unemployed as not wanting to work.

(Reprinted from the Philadelphia Tribune.)

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