In The New York Times, a solid bit of journalism by Ben Casselman runs through the newest labor study and numbers to report that despite Republican claims, cutting off enhanced federal unemployment benefits provided to help stabilize households during the pandemic does not actually result in many Americans returning to the workforce.
Once again, very loud Republican claims about workers and the economy have turned out to be bunk. At this point it's difficult to remember any Republican claim about workers and the economy that have not turned out to be bunk in the past four decades. It's also impossible to remember a time when Republican elected officials or pundits acknowledged that new data had proven their ideological moves to have been failures, so we can't expect the new data to cause introspection now.
Conservative economic gurus have been insisting that their ideas will usher in a new American age of prosperity for at least two Afghanistans, and with similar results. That both efforts ended with the most powerful people in each nation fleeing from society with gargantuan bags of cash is, well, notable.
Multiple past studies have shown that slashing unemployment aid does not actually boost hiring rates. An extra $300 a week might make the difference between being able to make rent or buy groceries for unemployed households, but stripping that money doesn't suddenly make more jobs appear.
The Republican belief is that by tamping down on food and housing aid, those who can't find employment in their communities will be forced into working "harder" to find jobs, and that they can be pressured into accepting less palatable jobs than they otherwise would have. The morality of that argument aside, those lawmakers and governors have tested the premise and we now have a great deal of resulting data. The verdict? It doesn't work. You can pipe up with whatever ideological theory you want, but when tested in the real world, the data shows it doesn't work.
For jobs requiring very particular skillsets or training, labor shortages aren't likely to be due to unemployed workers being "lazy." Recent reports claimed, for example, that American Airlines had been cancelling hundreds of flights due to labor shortages—a lazy way to tie the event to an existing narrative of pandemic job woes. The airline's true woes were considerably more complex, but based more on bad weather, training backlogs, and unpredictable pandemic-year demand. It wasn't because government was treating the unemployed too compassionately.
Those, however, are obviously not the jobs Republicans are talking about. Republican efforts to cut food and rent assistance during an again-spiking pandemic are intended to drive workers into low-wage industries that have long relied on exploiting workers. When the pandemic hit, it created a new health impetus for dirt-waged restaurant and retail workers to leave those jobs. Perhaps they don't want to deal with a public that regularly treats the health of service workers as secondary to "customer" preferences. Perhaps it's more difficult to even get to the workplace. Perhaps they can't even make enough money to cover the cost of having the job after pandemic fears and rules reduced customer flows and resulting tips.
Again and again, we're seeing that in those low-wage markets workers are refusing to take jobs under abusive, unsafe, cheapskate business owners. That's a worker hesitancy that many of these industries simply have no past experience with, and one that was already threatening to break out before the pandemic arrived. Fast food workers, other restaurant workers, hospitality workers—all were expressing new anger at the bottom-tier wages their industries had previously enforced. When those low-wage jobs began to come with dangerous new health threats, employees reevaluated their options.
What did work, according to story after story of hard-up business owners struggling to find anyone willing to work for them in this topsy-turvy hellscape carnival ride of an economy, is raising wages. Offer higher wages and new employees will beat a path to your door.
Raising wages? Works. Cutting off unemployment aid to force households to accept jobs at the lowest edge of the wage spectrum? Doesn't work. You can argue why it might or might not work until you're blue in the face, but it doesn't matter because the experiment keeps getting tried and the results are always the same. Harming unemployed families doesn't significantly boost employment rates. Whatever's going on there, it's more complex than Republican ideologues are insisting it is.
None of these new numbers or studies are going to change a single Republican politician's claims, because the claims weren't meant to be factual in the first place. It is all a show. It's been that way at every step of the pandemic.
Look no further than Florida's ever-odious Gov. Ron DeSantis for evidence that the Republican Party doesn't doesn't care about evidence. Even as his state staggers under the weight of a new pandemic surge topping anything it's ever seen—a surge that is in large part DeSantis' fault—the ambitious Republican politician and store-brand Trump knockoff is, through his office, continuing to spit the claim that it's "the federal benefits as the major reason for" small business challenges.
From anywhere else in the state it might look like crowding emergency rooms and a death count that's higher than Florida has ever seen might a more proximate reason the state's small businesses are finding themselves in a bind, but DeSantis has lied thousands of Americans into early graves and hasn't shown hesitancy yet. Being a Republican governor means you can kill or injure as many citizens as you want so long as you make the talking points stick.
If you can call them lazy or entitled while you're doing it, even better. If you're not willing to accept worst-grade wages in a pandemic surge while your state government belittles the idea that you're even allowed to enforce your own safety, buddy, then maybe you're what's holding America back.