Craig Miller says young people have to "get off their butt and get a job"

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Miller, whose only other political campaign was an unsuccessful bid for Congress in 2010, says he'll place his business experience up against any of the other GOP candidates for Senate. (His resume includes heading the National Restaurant Association, a lobbying group that became much better known over the past few months due to some of Herman Cain's issues.) His opponents include Congressman Connie Mack IV, former interim U.S. Senator George LeMieux, former House Majority Leader in Florida Adam Hasner, and retired colonel in the Army Reserves Mike McCalister.

But he realizes that in the polls, name recognition is what counts this early on, and with the exception of McCalister, all his challengers are politicians who have had their names much more in the press over the years than he has.

Having worked much of his professional career in restaurants, he says he sees all sides of the debate about illegal immigration in the U.S. When he headed the National Restaurant Association in the mid-aughts, his group supported then President George W. Bush's unsuccessful push for a comprehensive immigration reform bill. But he says since that time, "We've learned that that there is a high level of resistance among the American people to make the same mistake twice," referring to the last time Congress passed such a bill — the Simpson-Mazzoli Act of 1986. That bill granted amnesty to certain seasonal agricultural illegal immigrants, and to illegal immigrants who entered the United States before January 1, 1982 and had resided here continuously.

He installed the E-Verify system at Ruth's Chris in 2006, but said he resented that, as an employer, he had to be responsible for verifying his employees' legal status.

And he disagrees with Texas Governor Rick Perry's enactment of a plan a decade ago to grant in-state tuition rates for undocumented college students, saying that it was wrong to "reward" people who have disobeyed U.S. law.

After a discussion about Iraq and Afghanistan (Miller says the problem in both conflicts is a lack of a clear definition of success), he came back to his contention that at this point in time, the country seems afraid to take a risk.

"We won't put a pipeline down because there's some concern there will be some environmental impact. You know you gotta take some risks now and then."

He then went further, saying the U.S. has become a culture of dependence.

"We've created a culture with our young people where 'If you can’t find a job we’ll put you on the government payroll for 99 weeks, and we’ll extend it and extend it,'" he says. "At some point you have to step back and say, 'Are we creating this whole idea that the government, every time somebody runs into a problem, is the outlet for the solution?'"

He then says his late father, who would have been 100 this year if he were still alive, would have laughed hysterically if he had to keep his son on his own health insurance plan until he was 26, as the Affordable Care Act does.

"It was the culture I came from," he says. "Now it seems like every kid who gets out of school at 25, if there's not a $50,000 job waiting for him, then he’s been unfairly treated. Okay? I say, get off your butt, go get a job."

That tough love approach may play well in Republican circles — if he can get the exposure to make his name and face more familiar to GOP primary voters next August.

Craig Miller
  • Craig Miller

Florida GOP Senate candidate Craig Miller wants to make it clear that his comment at a Tea Party convention last month that Occupy Wall Street protesters should “get off your ass and go get a job" needs a little context.

The former Ruth Chris' Steakhouse CEO from Winter Park says that he isn't insensitive to people who are out of work. But he says he was asked, if he were advising a young person out of work, what he would say to him.

"I would say, 'Get off your butt and go get a job. You may not be happy about it, okay?' "

Miller came by the CL offices in Ybor City on Wednesday afternoon, and from talking with him it was obvious that he has a bit of a problem with the youth culture of today. His background may have something to do with it: He began washing dishes in restaurants when he was 13, later served in Vietnam, and then became a restaurant executive in his early 30s. Now 61, he says young people today are more dependent on government, and less independent, than his generation was.

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