Tim Burchett is an actual U.S. representative from the state of Tennessee, and he apparently has no idea how unemployment insurance (UI) works. As in, we don’t (very rarely, anyway) pay people who quit their jobs. The people who are quitting are frequently applying early for Social Security and/or living off whatever savings they managed to claw back from the hulking dragon hoard of our oh-so-magnanimous cabal of hardly working plutocrats.
Okay, so we’re dusting off the bleached bones of this talking point? I’m starting to miss the intellectual heft of the Dr. Seuss/Mr. Potato Head wars. It’s like everything Republicans say these days was crafted and focus-grouped by a think tank that shares coworking space with painter Jon McNaughton and a meth lab.
But, hey, why let reality get in the way of a fun narrative?
Unfortunately, this bullshit story is so old it should be meeting Ronald Reagan’s “welfare queen” trope at Perkins every morning to double-fist Sankas and parse the latest Bonanza fanboy theories.
For the nontweeters:
TIM BURCHETT: “4.3 million workers quit their jobs. We need to quit paying folks not to work.”
Good gourd, that’s ignorant.
The tweet caught the attention of 10th-level Twitter ninja Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who has turned down numerous overtures to join me at Perkins for late-night Sanka bacchanals. It’s starting to make me feel just a little uncool.
For the nontweeters:
ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ: “Y’all already did over a month ago despite everyone having data that ending UI doesn’t push people back to work. Conservatives love to act like they’re ‘fiscally savvy’ yet remain puzzled as to why people can’t work a job whose pay won’t even cover the childcare costs to work.”
Yup. As many people who aren’t members of Congress know, extended federal UI benefits expired in early September, and their removal didn’t meaningfully goose hiring rates, even though Republicans were convinced that “free money” was the sand in the gears preventing more robust recovery from the pandemic.
In fact, 26 states stopped those payments early, and it did bupkis.
The hiring boom many seemed to expect has yet to materialize. Job growth actually skidded in August, despite the fact that 26 states had already cut off federal aid. Employers added just 235,000 workers to their payrolls, and the leisure and hospitality industry, which had arguably complained loudest about the effect of UI on hiring, tacked on precisely zero. Surveys from Indeed.com suggest that online job searching has yet to meaningfully pick up and Bloomberg reports that applications in the restaurant sector have actually declined in each of the last nine weeks. Meanwhile, employment hasn’t grown any faster overall in states that decided to drop out of the UI programs early than in the ones that continued them into September.
Not only did ending enhanced unemployment benefits do little to boost hiring, the states that ended the programs early also damaged their own economies. According to a paper released in August from researchers at Columbia, Harvard, the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, and the University of Toronto, the decision to end benefits early actually resulted in a significant financial hit.
The employment dynamic — a loss of benefits without resulting job income for most people — led households to cut their weekly spending by 20%, according to the paper. As a result, economies of the cutoff states saw a reduction of nearly $2 billion in consumer spending from June through the first week of August.
“They turned down federal transfers and that money didn’t come back into the state [from new job income],” University of Toronto assistant professor Michael Stepner said. He also co-authored the paper.
A 20% spending cut amounts to a big reduction in quality of life for these households, which are largely lower-income, Stepner said.
As Ocasio-Cortez notes, people are starting to realize that working a job (or two, or three) that doesn’t pay all their bills—or even all the expenses related to getting back into the workforce—is sort of pointless. Without a strong push for human infrastructure—which includes government support for child care—you’ll never get some of these people back to work, because they literally can’t go.
But since Republicans found a talking point that works for them, they’re going to dry-hump it into humiliated mounds of lint. Never mind that it’s a total lie. Their die-hard base doesn’t know that, after all. All they “know” is that Joe Biden is the next Che Guevara. And they don’t want communism—unless, of course, Donald Trump tells them it’s okay.
It made comedian Sarah Silverman say, “THIS IS FUCKING BRILLIANT,” and prompted author Stephen King to shout “Pulitzer Prize!!!” (on Twitter, that is). What is it? The viral letter that launched four hilarious Trump-trolling books. Get them all, including the finale, Goodbye, Asshat: 101 Farewell Letters to Donald Trump, at this link. Or, if you prefer a test drive, you can download the epilogue to Goodbye, Asshat for the low, low price of FREE.
This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.