Some Republicans in Congress are griping that the enhanced unemployment benefits passed recently to offset job losses caused by the coronavirus pandemic are encouraging workers to stay home and not work, even though that’s exactly what health officials have been urging to combat spread of the disease, HuffPost reports.
Among those squawking the loudest are Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who has been complaining since the benefits were overwhelmingly approved by the House and Senate a couple of weeks ago:
“The Senators were attacked in the media, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called them ‘cruel.’ But they turned out to be right,” wrote the editorial board of The Wall Street Journal, a line that was later tweeted by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).
“’I want to make people whole who lost their job through no fault of their own,’ Graham said in another tweet. ‘But I don’t want to pay people more NOT to work than to actually go to work.'”
Lawrence Katz, a Harvard University economics professor, says Graham and other critics of the increased benefits are wrong and not looking at the larger picture presented by the unique health dangers facing workers from COVID-19:
“This is not normal times where we’re trying to partially cover your consumption and give you incentive to search for work.
“We’re sending a sharp and clear signal that only essential work should be going on. We’re implicitly saying that the externality from your going to work and creating danger is very high and this is the time to stay at home.”
Before the unemployment legislation was passed, a handful of GOP senators voiced their objections to the bill. Along with Graham, there were also concerns from Sens. Rick Scott (FL), Tim Scott (S.C.) and Ben Sasse (NE).
According to critics of the plan, the enhanced benefits are artificially restricting the labor supply. That argument, however, doesn’t exactly hold water when you consider that many restaurant patrons still don’t feel safe sharing close proximity with strangers with coronavirus still being spread by people who are asymptomatic. So what good would it do to have cooks and waiters return to work if there are no customers to serve?
As usual, Republicans are on the side of business and the health and welfare of workers is secondary to the almighty dollar.
Featured Image Via NBC News