Guess what? Senate Republicans have STILL not made any progress on renewing some form of extended unemployment insurance benefits for 20-25 million Americans who are out of work. Americans are desperate to pay rent and buy food for their families, but Senate Republicans still can’t get past the idea — which, as you’ll see, is based on no actual facts — that extended benefits were preventing people from getting jobs.
Let’s recap quickly: In May, the House of Representatives passed a massive coronavirus relief bill — dubbed the HEROES Act — that includes a renewal of extended unemployment (UE) benefits. That legislation has been taking up space on Senate Republican desks for months while they half-heartedly argue about whether or not to take significant action to boost an economy that is, by all accounts, in deep shit.
Two weeks ago, Senate Republicans had a lovely Louisiana-inspired lunch and then left town for a three-day weekend without doing anything about the soon-to-expire UE benefits. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell promised that they would return in a few days with an actual bill to discuss…which they did. But their proposed legislation was such a convoluted mess of unrelated crap that it was declared dead on arrival by pretty much everyone in Washington D.C.
Last Thursday, after flailing away for a few days, Senate Republicans AGAIN left town for a three-day weekend without doing anything to address what had been the last financial lifeline for millions of Americans. Senate Republicans were by now so disassociated from even contemplating this critical decision that journalists were left asking HOUSE SPEAKER Nancy Pelosi to provide them with an update. Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer were left to continue negotiations with the White House Chief of Staff and the Treasury Secretary.
“We have to do things to ensure people’s safety and make them feel confident to go back out. Spend what you need to do it.”
— Doug Holtz-Eakin, a former economic adviser to George W. Bush and John McCain (7/30/20)
Extended unemployment benefits for more than 20 million Americans officially expired on Saturday, though for most of those affected, their final check arrived a week earlier. So, what’s the holdup on a new package? As Paul Waldman explains for The Washington Post:
Let’s be clear: The main holdup is that the White House and congressional Republicans can’t agree on what they’re seeking. They know they don’t want to be as generous as Democrats do, but beyond that, they seem all over the map. For their part, House Democrats passed their rescue bill back in May.
While there are a number of disagreements — how much help to give states, whether to give the Postal Service an infusion of cash — the biggest sticking point is the now-expired enhanced unemployment benefits, which were giving the 30 million or so Americans receiving benefits an extra $600 a week on top of payments from states.
Democrats want to revive and continue those enhanced benefits as long as the crisis lasts; Republicans are consumed with the idea that millions of lazy Americans might be sitting at home when they could be out working. So they’re playing around with various complex formulas (what if we replace 70 percent of people’s former incomes or give them $200 a week?) but can’t come up with a single position.
”[We] want to make sure that we’re helping people in need, uh, but not creating an unfair competition between the government and the private sector.”
— Sen. Cory Gardner (7/29/20)
Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) is among the Senate Republicans who are mindlessly repeating talking points about the idea that extended unemployment benefits might be causing a disincentive for unemployed Americans to find a new job. But why are Senate Republicans so convinced that extended unemployment benefits are preventing people from seeking jobs?
For no reason, apparently. As Waldman continues:
The truth is that multiple studies have now found that people are not refusing to work because their unemployment benefits are too generous. Not only that, but the added $600 benefit has boosted consumer spending, helped people pay for housing and otherwise kept the economy from getting even worse. [Pols emphasis]
Oh, reaaalllyyy??? For more on this development, you need to follow the link to this story from Catherine Rampell of The Washington Post. Rampell cites five recent studies (from big names such as Yale, the University of Illinois, the University of Chicago, the University of California at Berkeley, the University of Pennsylvania, and even the Federal Reserve Bank of New York) that all — separately — found the same results:
Using a variety of government and private-industry data sets, they all concluded the same thing: The $600 federal supplement does not appear to have depressed job growth.
As the Yale economists summarized: “We find no evidence that high [unemployment insurance] replacement rates drove job losses or slowed rehiring.” [Pols emphasis]
Not only is there no evidence to support the idea that extended unemployment benefits are a disincentive to find work…there is also ample evidence that the extra $600 benefits were directly boosting the economy in general. In other words, it should be a no-brainer decision for Senate Republicans to immediately renew extended unemployment benefits.
So, what is Gardner thinking today? Nothing about this. As POLITICO reports:
“U.S. Senators Doug Jones of Alabama and Cory Gardner of Colorado … introduced the American Dream Down Payment Act of 2020. The bipartisan legislation would help prospective homeowners save for a traditional 20-percent down payment by creating special tax-advantaged savings accounts for eligible housing costs”
The New York Times spoke last week with a woman who has been unemployed since April and is absolutely terrified about what comes next for her family now that extended UE benefits have expired. But worry not! Senator Gardner has a plan to help her save money that she doesn’t have for a traditional 20-percent down payment on a new house she can’t possibly afford!
If Gardner were a medical doctor, he’d suggest removing some of your teeth in order to alleviate the pain from a sprained knee. But at least in that case, he’d only be harming one person instead of 25 million Americans.