Despite the relentless and deceitful propaganda from right-wing ignoramuses like hate-filled sociopath and high school drop-out Lauren Boebert and fascist-oriented anarchists like Marjorie Taylor Greene, unemployment benefits are not the cause of workers' reluctance to march back into unsafe low-paying jobs. On Friday, MarketWatch asked if the extra unemployment benefits the GOP wants to end keeping Americans out of the work force. As you have probably guessed, it isn't.
If it had it's way, the Chamber of Commerce would have abolished the whole notion of unemployment insurance before it was ever passed. It should come as no surprise that they are trying to mislead the public that unemployment benefits are harmful to the economy. Neil Bradley, their policy chief, issued a statement Friday asserting that "The disappointing jobs report makes it clear that paying people not to work is dampening what should be a stronger jobs market. One step policymakers should take now is ending the $300 weekly supplemental unemployment benefit. Based on the Chamber’s analysis, the $300 benefit results in approximately 1 in 4 recipients taking home more in unemployment than they earned working."
MarketWatch pointed to a tweet by economist Ben Zipperer, in response to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce:
Zipperer said other factors, including fears about going back into the workplace and inadequate wages, play a role in the equation. “Hard to overstate the difficulty and stress a service sector job now requires: additional health and safety protocols, dealing with anti-vaxxers, serious risk of illness,” he wrote on Twitter. “Asking someone to work at pre-pandemic wages is asking for a real wage cut.”
Recent research suggests that beefed-up unemployment benefits don’t keep workers from re-entering the workforce, or at least, trying to: A study by the Chicago Federal Reserve from earlier in the pandemic, when jobless Americans were receiving $600 extra a week in benefits, founded that people collecting benefits “search more than twice as intensely” for jobs as those who had exhausted their benefits.
Sen. Ron Wyden, a Democrat from Oregon who heads the Senate Finance Committee, labeled efforts to cut off enhanced unemployment benefits as “deeply disturbing.”
“Enhanced jobless benefits helped save the economy by ensuring millions of families could pay rent and buy groceries during this crisis,” he said Friday in a statement. “Cutting off all benefits while millions of workers have not yet been able to return to work could cause tremendous financial pain, and sabotage our economic recovery.”
“Study after study has shown that enhanced jobless benefits have not prevented workers from returning to their jobs, and there are other factors at play here, like lack of child care for millions of women, and ongoing concern about the virus.”
Employees’ willingness to return seems to also vary by sector. “[T]he jobs report shows large increases in leisure and hospitality jobs, suggesting ‘generous’ unemployment insurance is not a barrier to work in those industries,” said Chad Stone, chief economist at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a think-tank focused on the impact of budget and tax issues on inequality and poverty.
Shervin Aazami is running for the San Fernando Valley congressional seat held by garden variety corporate Democrat Brad Sherman. Despite both identifying as members of the Democratic Party, here are some very major differences between Sherman and Shervin. Don't expect any stern-- let alone harsh-- words from Sherman about the Chamber of Commerce's anti-worker antics. Aazami, on the other hand, is addicted to telling the truth. "Unemployment benefits," he told us this morning, "have insulated countless families from economic disaster. They’re an essential lifeline during a time of great financial pain-- especially for service, retail, gig, & frontline workers. The anti-worker Chamber of Commerce would rather blame workers and UI for a more tepid jobless report than hold companies accountable for failing to offer workers a living wage and provide benefits like child care. And that’s the real problem here-- the fact that we have multi-billion dollar corporations like Walmart and Amazon that would rather pay starvation wages and incentivize employees to seek government services than actually pay their employees strong wages. The April jobless report showed that more women became unemployed or left the labor force entirely. With child-rearing still heavily gendered in our society, lack of comprehensive child care is a big impediment to women’s labor force participation. I thought competition was the hallmark of a free market capitalist society. Why then are big businesses so opposed to competing for labor with strong wages and necessary benefits?"
This morning, Tony Romm reported for the Washington Post that right-wing GOP governors have begun slashing unemployment benefits to try to force workers back to work. "The new GOP cuts," he wrote, "chiefly target the extra $300 in weekly payments that millions of Americans have received for months in addition to their usual unemployment checks. Arkansas on Friday became the latest to announce plans to cancel the extra benefits, joining Montana and South Carolina earlier in the week, in a move that signals a new effort on the part of Republicans to try to combat what they see as a national worker shortage. Republican policymakers have long opposed these heightened unemployment payments and unanimously voted against extending them earlier this year. But party leaders nationwide have grown more emboldened in recent days, particularly as the U.S. government on Friday released new data showing the economy added only 266,000 jobs in April."
Many Democratic lawmakers stress the payments remain necessary because families are hurting and parents simply cannot afford to return to work in the absence of accessible, affordable child care. In some states, Republicans also have ended their participation in pandemic relief programs that benefit those who drive for Uber, deliver for Grubhub or otherwise participate in the so-called gig economy, further troubling congressional advocates for heightened unemployment aid.
...The new political dispute over unemployment reflects the broader concern-- and growing confusion-- about the health of the U.S. economy as businesses reopen, states lift restrictions and doctors continue their push to vaccinate as many Americans as possible against the coronavirus.
Those developments count among the early achievements of the Biden administration, which attributes some of the gains-- and a steady drop in the number of newly unemployed Americans-- to the $1.9 trillion stimulus law that was passed in March. Biden has also sought to secure roughly $4 trillion in additional spending to repair the nation’s infrastructure and bolster federal safety net programs, believing big government investments can close the country’s persistent economic gaps.
But Republicans counter that the consequences of that spending are starting to show, threatening to raise prices for consumers and overheat the economy before it has fully recovered. In a sign of the fight to come, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) on Thursday said the president’s agenda already had caused inflation and spawned a national worker shortage, which he said is “directly related to this recent bill that just passed.”
The White House has said it does not believe the federal benefits have created a significant crunch in the labor market. Asked if enhanced unemployment benefits had any affect on Americans’ desire to work, President Biden on Friday rejected the notion: “No, nothing measurable,” he told reporters.
Some Republican leaders outside of Washington still have sought to blunt the perceived impact of Biden’s agenda-- beginning with the enhanced unemployment payments that Congress adopted in March. The stimulus, known as the American Rescue Plan, provides $300 per week in extra, federally funded unemployment benefits until early September.
Hours after the Biden administration reported lower-than-expected employment numbers, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced his state would cease providing the extra $300 in weekly unemployment payments in June. In a letter to Arkansas’s labor agency, Hutchinson attributed the decision to the fact that the state’s economy is “rebounding so quickly.”
South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster announced his plan to cease participating in the program earlier this week. Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb signaled to local reporters that the state could soon follow suit, while Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey is considering the same. And Montana Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte said he plans to offer residents a one-time return-to-work payment. He lambasted the federal stimulus benefits as “no-work bonuses” in a tweet Friday, stressing it would not encourage Americans to seek new jobs.
The early trend troubled labor experts. The enhanced unemployment payments for months have offered a critical financial lifeline to millions of Americans, including those in roughly a dozen states-- some led by Republican governors-- that normally do not offer benefitsthat meet or exceed the poverty line. In canceling the $300 weekly benefit, some GOP governors also announced plans to end their states’ involvement in a federal program that helps gig-economy workers and other independent contractors, who traditionally are not eligible to collect jobless support at all.
Rebecca Dixon, executive director of the National Employment Law Project, said the states now risk rolling back the much-needed federal aid too prematurely, putting families who do earnestly aspire to work at renewed financial risk. She said GOP governors nationwide similarly sought to reopen their states too soon in the more dire, and deadly, early months of the coronavirus pandemic.
“They’re misguided in their thinking about why people aren’t returning to work,” said Dixon, whose organization advocates for greater unemployment assistance. “There are all of these ways our care infrastructure is not back up.”
Other Republican governors, meanwhile, have newly reinstated requirements for unemployment aid that they had suspended earlier in the pandemic when millions of workers suddenly were thrust out of a job. Ducey, for example, issued an executive order earlier this month that once again requires Arizona residents to prove they are seeking jobs to continue collecting benefits. And Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis this week pledged the Sunshine State soon would require the same.
“We absolutely can put more people to work,” he said Wednesday.
"Let's be clear about 2 things," Washington progressive congressional candidate Jason Call told me this afternoon: "the Biden stimulus package didn't go far enough, and the Republican Party hates the working class. For as long as I can remember, Republicans have thrown shade on the working class-- those in the service industries, retail, restaurant, hospitality, manufacturing, public works, and a host of other work that is dirty, dangerous, and backbreaking-- as waiting for an opportunity to grift, to get something for nothing. They have particularly thrown this shade at minority communities, playing on centuries old tropes that are borne straight out of slavery and colonialism. The working class has always been the backbone of the American (and worldwide) economy. The gears of economy grind to a halt when people don't go to work; it's why the union movement has faced fierce and often brutal pushback from the ownership class, which fears nothing more than organized labor. People want to work, by and large. They want to earn, they want to contribute, they want to be productive in meaningful ways. What they don't want to do is live under modern day feudalism where their labor comes with starvation wages, no benefits, unreasonable scheduling, and no job protections (all of which are typically secured by a strong union). And that's without the life-threatening conditions of a pandemic. Nobody should be asking workers to return to a workplace without vaccinations, without strict masking and social distancing norms and PPE provided, and for substandard pay. All work is hazardous work in a pandemic. We are at a time where the ownership class needs to recognize that they can't have it all, and people are mad as hell and not taking it anymore. We need to take advantage of this momentum and ensure the right to organize by passing the PRO Act to guarantee the right to unionize. I make no secret of my disdain for the corporate wing of the Democratic Party, the Manchins and Sinemas in the Senate, and the Rick Larsens in the House, that often align with Republicans on critical economic issues that would benefit working people and believe that bipartisanship is a virtue while tens of millions of Americans live in poverty. It's time that our representatives look to the Constitution, Article I Section 8, and see their duty to 'provide for the general welfare', which means safety and security for all, not just ensuring the continued profits of the wealthy."