PANDEMIC BY-PRODUCT

Capitalism Goes Back to School

You have probably heard a theory about why employment figures haven’t roared back to pre- pandemic levels in America. The grand presumption from Republicans is people are not returning to their previous jobs because they are making so much money from the government’s pandemic relief checks.

As you might suspect, I have thoughts on this. First, let’s examine unemployment history. In October of 2009, right after the financial collapse, unemployment was at 10%. After a great recovery under two presidents, Obama and Trump, that number fell to 3.5%, one of the lowest unemployment numbers of this century. Then, Covid-19 came to the world and unemployment jumped to 14.8%. The federal government handed out assistance checks to people and some companies enrolled in the Paycheck Protection Plan (PPP) to obtain government loans to pay employees and keep their businesses afloat.

In March 2021, US unemployment dropped to 6%, but instead of cheering on this great improvement the GOP complained that recovery was taking too long. They insisted that all pandemic relief payments needed to end so that poverty and need would drive people back to work. Okay, that description is tilted and subjective but let’s stop and think about this. The Republicans may be wrong.

I found this interesting viewpoint in The Hill, “Is questioning whether unemployed Americans respond to the availability of unemployment compensation just another way of insulting their intelligence? If one can make more money being paid to stay at home, a rational person should do that, mindful of any effect on future employability, of course. Do we really need proof of the obvious? To be sure, it is a bit cynical to frame this as ‘being paid to stay home,’ but that’s what it is — or more neutrally, compensation for being unemployed, which one will lose by taking a job.”

The restaurant industry is facing a huge workforce challenge. I tried to go into a Starbucks and another breakfast establishment recently only to see signs that they were closed because not enough workers showed up to work that day.

Here’s a headline from the Restaurant Manifesto blogsite: The Restaurant Labor Shortage Was Inevitable – Stimulus payments aren’t the only thing keeping workers on the sidelines. They say, “Some hospitality professionals have abandoned the industry altogether. Months of waiting to return to their old jobs has left many workers worried about being left alone at the altar. Others chose to relocate to places where jobs are plentiful—cities like Miami where disruption to restaurant businesses has been ameliorated by more permissive public health policies.” I would add that some workers didn’t want to return to a job placing them in direct contact with mask-less customers.

The article continued, “Some individuals who’ve lost their jobs also lost their health insurance coverage during the worst public health crisis in a generation. When the industry shut down, many owners immediately laid off their entire staff, no questions asked, even their most loyal workers.”

One of my suppositions is that laborers who were isolated and quarantined had time to question what is important to them. They started to see the difference between a low-paying job with ill-tempered supervisors as compared to fulfilling work that paid them properly under managers who treated them respectfully and fairly. It’s not hard to find someone who has worked in the food business with many stories of rotten experiences, including tales of sexual harassment, tips being stolen by co-workers and long shifts with meager compensation. Maybe that’s why they aren’t going back to their former jobs.

The good news is capitalism never sleeps, it continuously finds ways to survive and grow. What has the pandemic mentality forced companies to do? Well, motivation is at the top of the list. Companies are offering bonuses just to get people in the door to fill out an application. From free food to fifty bucks, the corporate lords have found religion – MONEY.

While trying to get more workers, they are also reviewing their hourly wages and benefits such as healthcare. They are now forced to compete with not only direct competitors but also other industries. Our media outlets love to point out how “bad” it is to work for Amazon, but their warehouse jobs are plentiful and they pay well. You can work in a restaurant and hope your daily tips are substantial or you can punch-in every morning to feed the monster Jeff Bezos created and making good moola.

It’s appalling to me that the Republicans assume everyone getting financial assistance is scamming the federal government. Instead of investigating and understanding real people problems, they just cut off the money, stop the abortions and make it harder to vote. Thanks for nothing. Maybe it’s time you do some research and listen to objective logic.

Congress has become a hydra, with each of its two heads canceling the other. The Democrats want to help but fail to unite around one solid plan. The Republicans lay in wait until an idea floats to the front, then they attack it regardless of its substance. I cannot believe that grown men in Congress are still afraid of Donald Trump. It’s clear that Mitch McConnell and Kevin McCarthy are nothing but Trump puppets, lacking backbone and vision.

If we take 6% as a starting place for recovery, we could be much more optimistic and perhaps see that slower reduction of unemployment might be driven by businesses reluctant to overextend themselves until the coast is clear. I suggest Republicans open the book about the disaster of a global pandemic to learn the number of permanently closed businesses. If Lindsey Graham knew the real number of those places that closed forever, and counted all the workers they used to employ, he might be a bit less vindictive toward people who are getting checks. If you are curious, South Carolina currently has an unemployment rate of 5.1%, and in government employees they are at  negative-3.5%. Time to give out some government jobs, Lindsey.

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