Trump labor pick: 52% of country is dependent on government, 'votes benefits to themselves'

Andrew Puzder in 60 seconds
Andrew Puzder in 60 seconds

In a 2011 speech to a conservative think tank, Donald Trump's choice to head the Labor Department, fast-food CEO Andrew Puzder, said the electoral balance in the country was tilted because a large segment of the population would always "vote benefits to themselves."

Speaking to the Heritage Foundation about his 2011 book, "Job Creation: How It Really Works and Why Government Doesn't Understand It," Puzder suggested the Democratic Party was benefitting from more than half the country receiving benefits.

"Last year, 52% of the people in the country got more from government than they gave to government," Puzder said. "We do have a segment of the population that's going to continue to vote benefits to themselves. You have to make a decision for yourself which party actually supports that and would therefore want to continue to have those people vote for them by taking from the rich and giving to the poor, as they like to say, which tilts the electoral balance in favor of those who get the benefits. If they are more than 50% of the population, we've got a problem."

"In California, I think the last election showed that. I think we have higher than 52% of the people," he continued. "I think 49% of the people in California don't even pay taxes. You can see what kind of political problems that's creating for those of us who'd like to get the state back on track."

It's unclear where Puzder got his 52% statistic. A 2011 Wall Street Journal report cited census data from early 2010 that showed 48.5%, of the population lived in a household where a member was receiving some form of government assistance.

He is scheduled to appear for his confirmation in Feb. 2. Democrats have criticized Puzder for his opposition to many of their top labor priorities, including Obamacare and a federal minimum wage increase.

If confirmed, Puzder would oversee issues related to wage earners and unemployment benefits.

Trump administration spokesperson Ninio Fetalvo told CNN's KFile: "Mr. Puzder has always expressed deep concern for many Americans who have lost hope and have given up on seeking employment. Ensuring the American people will have more and better job opportunities will be Andy's top priority should he be confirmed as our next Secretary of Labor."

Sen. Patty Murray, the ranking Democrat on the Senate HELP committee, told CNN's KFile in a statement that Puzder's comments add to her concerns about his nomination.

"His recently discovered comments not only add to my serious concerns about his qualifications for this role, but send a clear signal that President Trump has no intention of standing up for the workers he promised to help on the campaign trail," Murray said.

Puzder made similar comments in an October 2014 symposium at the Chapman University School of Law, arguing that one of the two political parties appeals to people who "don't want a choice" in life.

"Let's say there's two political parties," Puzder said. "One of them says you should lift yourself up by your bootstraps. One of them says that, you know, the easy decision in life isn't always the right decision. One of them says sometimes, you're proud of what you've done, what you've accomplished, you're proud that you've faced failure and you succeeded against it. You know, you can't succeed if you can't fail."

"And then there's another party that says, 'Screw all of that, we'll just give you money,'" the restaurant chain CEO continued. "Now if you're a person who buys into the 'I'm gonna be dependent' philosophy, who are you gonna vote for? That's all that's about. It's about getting votes, retaining power, gaining control over people's lives. Are you're going to make your future, or are you going to let somebody else make those decisions? That's the way things were before capitalism, before the industrial revolution, where you didn't have a choice. Some people don't want a choice. Those people should vote for the party that's in power. If you want to stand up for your rights and your life and your children and your happiness and your satisfaction, you should vote differently."

In another 2014 speech in March at an event in Orange County, California, Puzder used a similar argument against Obamacare, saying that while the health care law might make health insurance cheaper for some people, it caused them to lose "the dignity and the self-respect that comes with a job."

"Just as importantly, we need to consider what this law is really doing to the people it's encouraging to give up their jobs and reduce their hours," Puzder said. "With those who Obamacare encourages not to work, they may well be better off with respect to health insurance expense. But are they really better off without the independence, the dignity and the self-respect that come with a job? Is it better to take from them the opportunity to raise their incomes, and join the middle class and succeed? Is it better to put them in a position where they can only improve their lives by voting for those who will continue to increase their government benefits funded by the efforts of others?"

A 2014 report from the Congressional Budget Office did predict that some people would choose to work less when faced with new, affordable health insurance options not tied to employment. Supporters of Obamacare have argued that the new options would allow those workers to pursue entrepreneurial opportunities.

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