Posted at: 01/18/2013 5:27 PM
By: Stuart Dyson, KOB Eyewitness News 4
A New Mexico congressman's comments about unemployed people have ignited a firestorm of criticism and approval. Rep. Steve Pearce paid KOB Eyewitness News 4 a visit Friday to talk about it.
In a speech to state lawmakers in Santa Fe Thursday, Pearce said there are unfilled jobs in his district and around the nation because too many unemployed people can't pass a drug test or would rather live on welfare than work.
KOB 4 asked the Republican from Hobbs if the reaction surprised him.
"No, I wasn't exactly surprised," Pearce said. "I'm glad the conversation is going because Americans need to understand that there are people out there who don't want to work."
Pearce questioned the need for creating jobs when there aren't enough people to fill them.
"We've got 4 million jobs that go unfilled right now," Pearce said. "It's not just in New Mexico. I hear employers everywhere, not only in this state as I travel, but outside the state, saying we can't find workers. They do not want to come to work!"
Fred Brink, of Albuquerque looking, said he's looking for job leads at Albuquerque's Workforce Connections office. Brink said he has a master's degree in architecture, but lives in an old bus.
"I would challenge my congressman, or senator, or any government employee that I'll be cleaner on any alcohol test, drug test, urine test, blood test - whatever they want to give me," he said. "I guarantee I'll score higher!"
Gloriana Begay is a military veteran looking for work. She said she would pass a drug test, and thinks Pearce is out of touch.
"I don't think he understands what we're trying to do out here," Begay said. "I don't think he sees it from our side."
Viewers are weighing in on KOB 4's Facebook page.
Forrest writes, "At last one politician has the guts to tell the truth."
Caroline writes, "Same old republican line - Steve Pearce doesn't want to help anyone."
Rufus says, "Rep. Pearce has an excellent idea."
That idea is Pearce's proposal to start requiring drug tests for people on welfare.