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Nate Jackson / May 11, 2021

The Truth About Unemployment

We’re not getting it from Joe Biden, who says there’s no problem and also promises to fix it.

The economic recovery is on the minds of millions of people these days. It is, after all, a universal kitchen table issue. Whether it’s rampant inflation on basic items that far exceeds the Federal Reserve’s 2% refrain, or whether it’s a breadwinner unable or unwilling to find a job, the economic picture doesn’t have quite the feeling of hope that it did last fall.

When it comes to the unemployed choosing to stay unemployed because their benefits exceed the wages they could earn, President Joe Biden on Monday again denied there’s a problem, blamed employers for the problem because they’re not paying enough, touted government hiring, and floated more aid to fix the problem. The very fact that he’s made defensive remarks twice following Friday’s disappointing jobs report shows just how worried he is about the public relations fiasco of increasing awareness that the government is subsidizing unemployment.

“Because of the American Rescue Plan, forecasters are projecting we’ll see the fastest economic growth in nearly 40 years in the months to come,” he proclaimed. “Our economic plan is working.”

But it’s also not working. He immediately followed the above boasting with a warning: “I never said — and no serious analyst ever suggested — that climbing out of the deep, deep hole our economy was in would be simple, easy, immediate, or perfectly steady.” Did someone replace his teleprompter with Barack Obama’s from 2009?

Eventually, Biden got to the elephant in the room. “I know there’s been a lot of discussion since Friday — since Friday’s report that people are being paid to stay home rather than go to work. Well, we don’t see much evidence of that. That is a major factor — we don’t see that — that — look, it’s easy to say — the line has been, because of the generous unemployment benefits, that it’s a major factor in labor shortages.”

That sure was garbled, but we think the man who’s been in Washington so long he can’t remember having a real job was arguing that enhanced unemployment benefits are not keeping people on the sidelines. That’s false.

It’s not the only reason, of course, and no one is saying it is. Indeed, he alluded to other reasons — child care facilities and schools being closed or limited, for one thing, leaving many parents unable to return to work. “Through no fault of their own,” adds Gary Bauer, “millions of Americans did lose jobs. And some can’t go back to work because Joe Biden and the left have declared war on the industries they work in.”

But it’s not necessarily an accusation of laziness to say that the smart economic decision for many workers is to stay at home and take the higher pay afforded by unemployment.

“There are 7,400,000 jobs open in the U.S. — but fewer than 300,000 found work last month,” said Senator Ben Sasse. “Why? This tragedy is what happens when Washington know-it-all’s decide to pretend they’re generous by paying more for unemployment than for work.”

Biden may have denied this is a problem, but he also announced an initiative to solve the problem by working with states to reimpose work-search requirements for anyone collecting unemployment benefits.

Part of the Democrats’ strategy with these enhanced benefits (not to mention no-strings-attached direct payments and printing trillions of dollars to inflate the currency) is to bring the nation nearer to their Holy Grail of a $15 minimum wage — if not legally, then at least prevailingly. “People will come back to work if they’re paid a decent wage,” Biden insisted. Socialist Senator Bernie Sanders said the same thing: “If [businesses] are having a very difficult time attracting labor, let them pay the workers a decent wage.”

“Decent” wages are to be determined by the market, not powerful and manipulative Beltway politicians and bureaucrats.

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