Pete Ricketts announced on May 24 that he is yanking the $300 pandemic unemployment benefit as of June 19. The multi-millionaire governor falsely claimed that the $300 per week of additional pandemic unemployment benefits is a disincentive to work. Twenty other right wing Republican governors have made a similar decision in recent weeks.
Ricketts is joining just about every other elected Republican official, big business and the right wing media in blaming unemployment compensation benefits for the current labor shortage. In other words, the former T.D. Ameritrade executive is contending that millions of Americans are lazy bums who don’t want to work. At the same time, Ricketts has fought for a corporate tax cut that was funded by cuts in programs that assist disabled children.
Ricketts — like Jeff Fortenberry and most D.C. Republicans — believes that rich people don’t have enough money and that the poor and middle class have it too easy. This lazy worker narrative needs to go away. There is no evidence to support this false narrative from many elected Republicans and their wealthy donor class.
Reporting from the Lincoln Journal Star indicates that Ricketts is wrong: “Our business is starting to come back, but we don’t have staff, said Zoe Olson, executive director of the Nebraska Restaurant Association. We just don’t have enough people to work.
Many workers left the industry either voluntarily or through layoffs and furloughs last year, and a number of them found jobs in other industries, such as grocery stores and manufacturing, Olson said. Even for those who haven’t found another job, they may still be reluctant to come back because of fear of being exposed to COVID-19.
One factor she does not believe is playing a role, however, is enhanced unemployment benefits that have made it so that some people are getting paid more in unemployment than they did when they were working.
That’s a false narrative, and it needs to go away, she said.”
Dave Leonhardt of the NY Times made a similar finding last week: “When a company is struggling to find enough labor, it can solve the problem by offering to pay a higher price for that labor — also known as higher wages. More workers will then enter the labor market. Suddenly, the labor shortage will be no more.
If anything, wages today are historically low. They have been growing slowly for decades for every income group other than the affluent. As a share of gross domestic product, worker compensation is lower than at any point in the second half of the 20th century. Two main causes are corporate consolidation and shrinking labor unions, which together have given employers more workplace power and employees less of it.
Corporate profits, on the other hand, have been rising rapidly and now make up a larger share of G.D.P. than in previous decades.
That so many are complaining about the situation is not a sign that something is wrong with the American economy. It is a sign that corporate executives have grown so accustomed to a low-wage economy that many believe anything else is unnatural.”
A new study from the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco confirms Olson and Leonhardt’s views on the cause of the current labor shortage. From The Hill.com: “The additional $300 in emergency unemployment benefits likely only has a small effect on recipients’ decisions to take jobs...The study undercuts GOP arguments that the boosted benefits are responsible for slowing the labor market recovery and contribute significantly to a labor shortage.
Nicolas Petrosky-Nadeau and Robert G. Valletta, the study’s authors, wrote that their estimates suggests few would turn down an offer to return to work at the previous wage.”
Since it lost control of the White House and the Congress in the 2020 election cycle, the GOP is trying to pass itself off as “blue collar” or “working class” party. You just can’t make this stuff up. The GOP is off to a bad start regarding its new theme in light of its phony claim that millions of Americans are lay abouts. What’s more, these same Republicans are fighting like hell to keep taxes on corporations and billionaires low.
It’s obvious that Ricketts and the D.C. Republicans believe that the voters are idiots and are playing them for chumps. These cosseted and privileged right wingers believe that the voters won’t catch on to their genuine platform. Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne accurately summarized the GOP’s position on the economy as follows: “Forgive me for noting that conservatives seem to believe that the rich will work harder if we give them more, and the poor will work harder if we give them less.”
Republican propaganda depends upon voter amnesia. As Jennifer Rubin of the Washington Post wrote: “Democrats’ job is to make sure voters know exactly what the GOP is for and against. A whole lot of voters would be horrified to find out.” Now let’s get it done! The very future of free elections and democracy is on the line in 2022!