The Republican Party doesn’t seem to feel the slightest pang of conscience as it schizophrenically alternates between paying lip service to the virtues of everyday Americans and treating them like a proletariat whose blood and guts must grease the wheels of the economy. The latest Labor Department jobs report touched off a debate over Joe Biden’s road map to post-pandemic economic recovery that illustrates this dissonance.
Reacting to the less-than-stellar figures, business groups and Republicans blame unemployment benefits for the perceived labor shortage and slow recovery.
Yet “administration officials say there is no evidence in the report—which found the economy added 266,000 jobs in April, well below the one million jobs many economists expected—that hiring has been slowed by the additional $300 per week that unemployed Americans are currently eligible to receive under the $1.9 trillion economic aid bill that Mr. Biden signed into law in March,” the New York Times reported.
Of course, no one should take the Biden Administration at its word, but that is peripheral to how the GOP continues to approach and interpret every issue through the lens of its economic orthodoxy. One does not have to defend every aspect of the unemployment benefits to see the GOP’s hypocrisy at play.
Basic Republican Arguments Don’t Cut It
Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) insisted that Americans will logically choose to work less so long as they receive unemployment benefits.
In other words, according to Republicans, Americans are lazy, and they must be coerced to work. Rubio ostensibly is at the tip of the GOP’s working-class spear, but when push comes to shove he doesn’t seem to care enough about the people he claims to champion to find out why exactly it is that they remain unemployed.
“When workers lose their jobs in manufacturing, they are most likely to be rehired in the service industry,” writes Eleanor Mueller, pointing to a noted trend. “It’s often lower-skilled workers who are the first to go, particularly when displaced by automation—and when they do, low levels of education and barriers to relocation mean that they typically end up working in restaurants.” Last year, the Brookings Institution reported that 53 million Americans between the ages of 18 and 64—accounting for 44 percent of all workers—qualify as “low-wage,” with median hourly wages around $10.22, and median annual earnings at about $18,000.
So why are Americans slow to get back to work? Republicans don’t care to ask—but Americans are answering. A CNBC/Morning Consult poll that surveyed workers paints a picture that the GOP doesn’t want to examine.
Fully 87 percent of those who haven’t worked in the last six months report that they can’t find job offers, although most are actively searching. When asked how important enhanced unemployment benefits are as a factor among those who rejected a job offer, 65 percent said not important at all. Among the top reasons that did factor into rejecting a job, 67 percent said that the salary was too low or that they needed to care for their families—with low wages as the top reason.
As it turns out, Americans do want to get back to work—they just want to earn a decent salary.
“The Biden Bucks are keeping people from going back to work,” Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) declared. “Why don’t we take away unemployment bonuses and see how quickly the economy reopens?” tweeted Representative Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.).
Bootstraps for Thee But Not for Me
While Blackburn and the GOP were preaching fiscal conservatism for everyday Americans, they were championing a bigger budget for an already bloated Pentagon. The same Pentagon that regards the GOP’s constituents as an extremist threat as it plans to partner with a private social media firm to conduct domestic surveillance operations and recently purged a commander from the Space Force for sounding the alarm about “Marxist ideologies” spreading in the military—all paid for by you. The GOP wants you to pay more, too.
Boebert rides a high horse, but it’s unclear that she’s above the kind of fiscal irresponsibility she publicly eschews.
“About three weeks before U.S. Representative Lauren Boebert reimbursed herself thousands of dollars for mileage from her campaign account in November, the Silt Republican paid off the last of nearly $20,000 in eight state liens that had been filed against her Rifle restaurant,” according to the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel. Boebert reportedly amassed the liens in unpaid unemployment insurance premiums that date back to 2016.
Boebert claims to have driven, in seven months, far enough to circumnavigate the globe one and a half times, though the Sentinel notes that her campaign records do not indicate any expenses for meals or lodging. An analysis by the Denver Post documented 80 known events that she attended for roughly 17,623 miles. “At an Internal Revenue Service reimbursement rate of 57.5 cents per mile, that only comes to $10,133,” the Sentinel reported.
This is the face of the Republican Party: hypocritical, corrupt, shortsighted, and living by the principle of “do as I say, not as I do.”
In this sense, they’re not all that different from the Democratic Party—but Democrats deliver for their constituents more often than Republicans do. Moreover, the GOP, much like the conservative movement, is just as captive to the kind of economic determinism it decries in its Marxists bugaboos. “The materialist bias of modern thought is characteristic not only of people on the Left who may be sympathetic to Marxism,” writes Francis Fukuyama, “but of many passionate anti-Marxists as well.”
“Indeed, there is on the Right what one might label the Wall Street Journal school of deterministic materialism that discounts the importance of ideology and culture and sees man as essentially a rational, profit-maximizing individual,” Fukuyama adds. But the homo economicus of conservative thinkers and Republican lawmakers is unique in that he is a glutton for punishment and content with wage slavery.
For example, Republicans praised low unemployment while the United States bled decent-paying manufacturing jobs and killed an infrastructure plan that could have helped create jobs and reinvigorate industry as the nation engaged in a trade war with China.
Americans Will Work, But Not As Serfs
Meanwhile, small businesses willing to offer higher pay are flooded with applications. When Klavon’s Ice Cream Parlor in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, doubled its starting wage from $7.25 an hour to $15 an hour, they had no trouble finding motivated workers. “It was instant, overnight. We got thousands of applications that poured in,” said Maya Johnson, general manager of Klavon’s. “It was very overwhelming, very. People were coming in by the next day that it broke on the news, they were coming in, filling out paper applications. I was doing on-the-spot interviews.”
Yet instead of finding ways to fight for better wages on behalf of American workers, Republicans like Maria Elvira Salazar (R-Fla.) and Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) are working hard to increase immigration levels. The two are sponsoring a bill that would actually accelerate the problem of chain migration—something that drives wages down and further undermines job opportunities for Americans.
The Republican Party actively undermines a tight labor market with its immigration policies, rails against the minimum wage, won’t countenance meaningful infrastructure spending, and labels policies intended to help improve family formation “socialism.” The GOP will spill blood and political capital to deliver billions to the Walton and Koch families as it threatens to cut unemployment benefits to workers and thrust them back into the low wage jobs they laud as success stories.
The problem with the GOP is not that it ignores their voters, but that it seems to hate them.