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GOP Will STOP A Great Depression With One Weird Trick: Cutting Off Unemployment
Only 2.4 million new claims reported this week. Things are turning around so fast!
The weekly unemployment report came out Thursday, and as you'd expect, it's terrible again. 2.4 million Americans filed new claims for unemployment benefits the week ending May 16, bringing the total of new unemployment claims over the last nine weeks to more than 38 million. That's pretty bad, and continues the economy's despondent march into Great Depression levels of unemployment, even if more of us are heading to the beach and insisting on the sacred American right to cradle an AR-15 while getting a haircut.
The jobless numbers continue to be astonishing, and House Democrats last week passed a new stimulus bill to provide additional help for people, like a renewal of the emergency $600 per week unemployment benefits (above state unemployment insurance). Others continue calling for an emergency universal basic income package to keep people from falling off a cliff.
Republicans, on the other hand, are rooting for the cliff. As the Washington Post reports, GOP leaders are dead set against any extension of the emergency unemployment aid, because maybe having almost enough money to live on will keep people from snapping up any of the abundant jobs that millions of Americans are still losing every goddamn week.
The Post says that while Republicans are all pretty sure the emergency unemployment insurance is a "disincentive" preventing people from returning to work (now that the pandemic is pretend-over in rightwing minds), they aren't sure what their next step should be. Some want the emergency benefits phased out quickly, while others are open to adding a second cash payout to Americans as a "that's all you get, now go back to work" measure.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin fretted that the $600 a week emergency benefits, which are set to end in July, mean that "in certain cases, we're actually paying people more than they made so we have to fix that," because getting paid too much is only for executives. (Haha, we kid — CEOs earn every million of their compensation, and deserve more.) Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called the expanded unemployment benefits "a crazy policy" in a private Republican meeting Wednesday, and the US Chamber of Commerce joined the chorus Thursday, oinking that low-paid workers had it way too good and may be ruined for ever going back to work. The new Republican talking point is that the extended benefits mean that government is "competing" with the private sector, and that somehow there are just millions of jobs out there waiting for people to get off their asses and take them.
Just to repeat: 2.4 million new unemployment claims last week.
Donald Trump insists that jobs are going to come roaring right back in about five minutes now that red states have decided there's no longer a public health crisis. On Tuesday, Trump insisted, "We're opening up; the states are opening up. [...] It's a transition to greatness." He then demanded a Big Mac and the head of another inspector general.
While the White House had no direct comment on the new unemployment numbers yesterday, press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said at a Wednesday press briefing that Trump wouldn't "rush forward with spending trillions more dollars in taxpayer money." (Especially since there's nothing in it for him, you losers.)
The Post also notes that, now that unemployment and the pandemic are both over, at least in terms of Trump's attention span, there's at least some good-ish news for unemployed folks in states that had experienced huge backlogs in processing the millions of new applications:
Some Americans had struggled for weeks to obtain the benefits after a flood of applications overwhelmed aging or neglected computer systems in states including Florida, New York and Maryland. These and other states later made immense progress in reducing their backlogs, though delays still remain. More than 200,000 out-of-work Americans are in line for payments in Florida, state data show, while the New York backlog stands at about 44,000, it reported Wednesday. About 7,000 claims had been pending review there for roughly a month.
And now that those kinks are almost worked out, obviously the crisis is over and it's time for everyone to go back to work, whether they have jobs or not. Perhaps if all the people furloughed or laid off because of the pandemic showed up at their former jobs, the businesses would magically reopen, unemployment would drop to pre-COVD-19 levels, and Donald Trump could get back to his two favorite things, watching TV and lying about everything.
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