Looking to 2012, Gingrich Strikes an Old Chord and Assails the Unemployed

Newt Gingrich: 'I'm opposed to giving people money for doing nothing.'

ByABC News
December 21, 2010, 5:09 PM

Dec. 22, 2010— -- As Newt Gingrich toys with the idea of a 2012 presidential run, he's opened to a worn page in his political playbook --- targeting the unemployed.

At a recent speech to GOP activists in South Carolina, Gingrich was his vintage self, delivering a red-meat message to his conservative base that attacked many of the usual suspects – the leftist news media, Hollywood and intellectuals – but he reserved particular ire for those who were out of work.

"I'm opposed to giving people money for doing nothing," Gingrich said, painting those Americans who receive unemployment benefits as preferring a government handout to looking for a new job.

Gingrich compared unemployment insurance to welfare, a system he dramatically overhauled with President Clinton in mid-1990s. According to the Los Angeles Times, Gingrich told the 250 activists that the U.S. last year spent $134 billion on unemployment compensation "and got nothing for it."

Instead of wasting money "paying people to do nothing for 99 weeks," he said he would make job training mandatory for anyone getting an unemployment check.

There are more than 3 million Americans who live in those 24 states hardest hit by the recession who are eligible for unemployment insurance for a maximum 99 weeks. Other states cut off insurance money sooner.

One of those so-called 99ers is a Philadelphia mother who lost her job in December 2008. With the holidays around the corner, the woman, who asked not to be identified, told ABCNews.com that she worried that when her benefits expire "she will no longer be able to take care of" her family.

Last week, President Obama signed a law extending unemployment insurance as part of the tax deal he brokered with Republicans. The deal, which extends federal unemployment benefits through 2011, however, does not help those 99ers who have exhausted their benefits.

Targeting 99ers is a strategy much like the way Gingrich pinpointed "welfare mothers" in the 1990s. At the time he said they had taken advantage of the social safety net.