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Hullabaloo


Thursday, August 22, 2013

 
"Moderate" California Republican legislator Jeff Gorell mocks concern over unpaid interns

by David Atkins

Republican California Assemblymember Jeff Gorell (AD44) is considered a moderate in his caucus, due primarily to slightly-less-than-barbaric stances on immigration and choice. But down beneath the moderate exterior of most Republican lawmakers lies the callous social darwinism of Ayn Rand.

In response to the furor over unpaid internships, Assemblymember Gorell tweeted last night:



There are two key problems with this, beyond the faux tough notion that being an unpaid lackey for large, well-funded organizations is somewhat character building rather than abuse.

The first and most obvious is that Mr. Gorell and his fellow travelers miss the main point of the unpaid internship critique: that only the well heeled can afford to take the positions. This is particularly true of plum positions like White House intern, which is the subject of the article Mr. Gorell linked to. Among the interns at the White House are the son of Larry Summers, Hugh Summers, as well as children of various high-level staffers and big donors. One fifth went to Ivy League schools. Few of them are likely eating ramen to gut their way through these unpaid internships.

The second point, of course, is that attempting to hold down a paying job at the same time as a worthwhile internship is brutal. More often than not, interns simply live off parents or off debt in the hope of landing a job later. Those who cannot afford to do so don't take internships. It's hard to live off ramen when there isn't even money to pay rent.

But aside from all that, why would Mr. Gorell want young people ambitious enough to take on decent internships to forced to eat ramen? In a country with as much wealth as the United States, why is it more important for billionaires to have low tax rates than for struggling young people to get paid even minimum wage? What sort of twisted moral compass does it take to be believe that multimillionaire CEOs are overburdened producers, but that young people with massive student debt are coddled parasites for asking $10/hr to do menial tasks?

We don't just have a partisan divide in this country. We have a serious moral, ethical and empathetic divide as well. Nor are so-called "moderates" like Jeff Gorell much better than their hyperconservative brethren when it comes to basic ethical decency.


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