The sandwich shop guy does say “I don’t blame these people. […] If I were them, I’d do what’s best for my family.” But that narrative from him plays into the Republicans’ resistance to continuing this assistance—or in fact helping out the sandwich shop owner by making sure he’s got enough income during the pandemic to not worry about his own livelihood. “If the government is paying more to stay home, why would those people be out there risking their lives, number one, number two, staying away from their families and number three, making less money?”
That’s the Republican line, but they don’t have the understanding part that the shop owner has, that it’s best for people’s families. They want to force people out of their homes, into the raging pandemic, to pretend like the economy is working. That’s ignoring the fact that the economy is working as much as it is precisely because this extra injection of cash, in the form of $2,400 a month to unemployed people, has kept the economy afloat.
The consensus among economists is that the $600 a week—minimum—needs to keep flowing. FiveThirtyEight and the Initiative on Global Markets at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business surveyed 33 quantitative macroeconomic economists, who says there is “a 59 percent chance that either keeping the payment steady or increasing it to above $600 per week would be most beneficial to the economy.” They also say that there is “only a 7 percent chance that letting the program completely lapse would be most beneficial.”
Backing that up, the Economic Policy Institute just released analysis indicating that reducing the payments to $200/week, one of the “compromises” Mitch McConnell is considering, would cost as much as 3.4 million jobs over the next year. They’ve estimated that if it goes away entirely, it would slow the growth of GDP by 3.7% over the next year, resulting in 5.1 million fewer jobs being created.
“These are huge numbers,” EPIs analysts say, “but they are driven by the fact that the support this extra $600 has given tens of millions of working families is huge. The economic shock of COVID-19 was enormous, but the large expansions to the UI system included in the CARES Act of March were incredibly effective in blunting the effect of this shock.” The job market, they write “remains fundamentally damaged.” That’s obvious in the jobless rate increasing again.
That’s because it is not safe for people to resume their normal lives, and people are responding accordingly. Just like all those people in Buford, Georgia, who aren’t applying for $8.50/hour jobs that would force them out into the public. Or the people in Florida who don’t want to spread asphalt in July. In Florida. “The big constraint on economic growth right now is the spread of the coronavirus,” EPI analysts say. “If we allow the $600 supplement to lapse, another huge constraint on growth will be imposed—collapsing incomes for the tens of millions of U.S. families that had to rely on these benefits in recent months.”
Mitch McConnell has recessed the Senate until 4 PM on Monday afternoon, when he’s scheduled the Senate to resume consideration of William Scott Hardy to be United States District Judge for the Western District of Pennsylvania. He said Friday, before sent the Senate home, “We hope to be able to pass something by the end of the next few weeks.” As if we have a few weeks.