Pop Culture

Republican Governors Giddily Announce Plans to Kick People Off Unemployment

They insist the benefits are disincentivizing people to find work, despite studies showing the exact opposite.

One of the defining features of the modern Republican Party, in addition to overt racism and inexplicable fealty to a guy who tried to overthrow the U.S. government, is contempt for the poor and working class. But wait, you say! I thought Republicans are the party of the working class and it’s elitist Democrats who thumb their noses at such people. It’s true that the GOP talks a big game about caring about regular old middle-class Americans, but in reality it despises them. How do we know this? For one thing, Republican policies overwhelmingly benefit corporate America and the very wealthy. For another, Republican lawmakers actively try to strip any government benefits they can from people not lucky enough to earn $200,000 a year at the age of three.

Most recently, a bunch of Republican governors have decided that the unemployed in their states are lazy bums who don’t deserve the increased federal benefits they’ve been receiving thanks to the American Rescue Plan, and that starting in June, they won’t. Per CBS News:

A growing number of Republican-led states are rejecting increased unemployment benefits meant to help Americans during the coronavirus pandemic, a move they say will help business owners who can’t find staff.… [Officials] in Montana, South Carolina, and Arkansas have announced they will exit the program by the end of June. Montana governor Greg Gianforte said the “vast expansion of federal unemployment benefits is now doing more harm than good.”

On Sunday, Utah governor Spencer Cox told CNN he thinks exiting pandemic-related unemployment benefits is a good idea, arguing the recent lower-than-expected jobs report is “what happens when we pay people not to work.”

If this argument sounds familiar, it‘s because it’s the same recycled one Republicans regularly make about how helping people in need will disincentive them from helping themselves. The only problem is that like most things out of the mouths of Republicans of late, it’s not actually true:

Several studies have examined the connection between benefits and unemployed people returning to work. In February, a study by JPMorgan Chase Institute found little evidence that increased benefits discouraged people from returning to the job. It found after Congress boosted supplemental insurance to $600 last spring at the onset of the pandemic, many jobless workers who received the money returned to work before the supplement expired.

Speaking at the White House press briefing Friday, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen also claimed data does not support the argument that increased unemployment benefits are leading to a workforce shortage. She said when they looked at states and sectors where supplemental benefits were high, there weren’t lower job finding rates as the argument would suggest, and in fact it was the “exact opposite.” A separate study by the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago looking at unemployment insurance and job searching using data from 2013 through 2019 found those receiving unemployment benefits search more intensely for work over those not receiving benefits and once benefits drop off, search efforts drop steeply.

Joe Biden, who apparently doesn’t subscribe to the belief that anyone receiving unemployment benefits is a lazy mooch, rejected such claims on Monday. “The line has been because of the generous unemployment benefits, that it’s a major factor in labor shortages. Americans want to work. Americans want to work,” he said. “I think the people claiming Americans won’t work even if they find a good and fair opportunity underestimate the American people.” Noting that anyone collecting unemployment who is offered a “suitable job” must take it or lose their unemployment benefits, the president reminded Republicans that there are still 8 million fewer jobs than when the COVID-19 pandemic started, and that the federal unemployment benefits have been a “lifeline” to those without work. “We’ll insist that the law is followed with respect to benefits,” Biden said. “But we’re not going to turn our backs on our fellow Americans.”

Asked by Fox News correspondent Peter Doocy how the administration knows people are “just choosing not to apply for jobs,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki responded that there is basically no evidence that the extra unemployment benefits are “a major driver in people not rejoining the work force,” but rather that people may not be rejoining the workforce due to factors like vaccination rates, a lack of childcare, and school reopenings, plus that pesky little thing about employers needing to pay an actual “livable working wage.”

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