Republican cuts to emergency unemployment benefits did not help improve workforce shortages
It’s the COVID, stupid! That simple reality is apparently too complex for most of the media to figure out, as they transcribe and repeat Republican talking points over and over again about how people are quitting their jobs because the $300 a month unemployment benefits earlier this year were “too generous.”
Twenty-six Republican-run states cut off unemployment benefits to their people two and three months early — and not one single Red state that did it saw a bounce in people looking for work. You would think that would have been enough to put a stake through the heart of that particular zombie GOP lie, but it went almost completely unnoticed by the national media.
NPR, an outlier in the coverage, noted recently:
“In states that cut off the $300 check, the workforce — the number of people who either have a job or are looking for one — has risen no more than it has in the states that maintained the payment. That federal aid, along with two jobless aid programs that served gig workers and the long-term unemployed, ended nationally September 6. Yet America’s overall workforce actually shrank that month.”
On the other hand, Democratic-run states were not experiencing anything close to the “crisis” of “the great resignation” that was hitting Red states. What accounted for the difference?
Imagine you are living in a Red state making their $7.25 an hour minimum wage and your employer says you have to work in an environment where rightwing maskholes routinely confront you as sport. On top of that, by refusing to get vaccinated or wear a mask, they are spreading a deadly disease that causes dementia in as many as a third of the people who get it and survive.
And if you have been paying attention you know that the largest variable leading to breakthrough infections appears to be the intensity of your exposure to the virus. Somebody yelling at you through a mask is not all that likely to break through, but somebody without a mask? All bets are off.
Is it worth it? These Red states are also all “Right To Work For Less” states, meaning the people quitting have no union protections and nobody watching their backs in the workplace. And there is not always a guy willing to punch out a maskhole handy.
Republicans (and conservative Democrats like Joe Manchin, who wants to means-test childcare benefits) are absolutely in love with their mythology that giving people “free money” causes character- and society-destroying laziness. Except, of course, for those cases where they are talking about rightwingers leaving fortunes to their own children: apparently the offspring of rich people are so immune to this free-money-caused mental condition that we have to end the Estate Tax.
While the GOP was trying to solve the employee shortage problem by cutting off benefits to people on the lowest end of the employment scale, reporters at The Washington Post were looking at actual real August jobs data from Bureau of Labor Statistics about who was quitting and where.
And, surprise, they found there was an easy-to-understand statistical correlation between how badly a state was handling COVID and how many people were saying, “Take this job and shove it!”
“As the Delta wave grew in August,” wrote reporters Alyssa Fowers and Eli Rosenberg, “the states with the most new infections also saw hotter job markets than the country as a whole. Employees quit or were hired at rates matching or exceeding the national average in the ten states with the highest rates of new infections that month: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Tennessee.”
As is so often the case, Republican efforts to use cruelty to solve society’s problems not only made things more miserable for the most defenseless among us but did not do a damn thing to solve the problem employers in their states were facing. If Republicans actually cared about working people, they’d raise their minimum wages, roll back their Right To Work For Less laws, and provide employers with a benefits base by expanding Medicaid to cover everybody.
But they really do not care for working people, who do nothing to contribute to their campaigns and lavish lifestyles: the only Americans served by Republicans are the fat cats, who occasionally invite a politician over to swim in their money bins. Thus, working people in these poorly-run, wildly-infected Red states are singing along with Johnny Paycheck:
“I’ve seen a lot of good folk die. Who had a lot of bills to pay. I’d give the shirt right off of my back. If I had the guts to say. Take this job and shove it! I ain’t workin’ here no more!” — Johnny Paycheck, song written by David Allen Coe