Reprinted from CounterPunch by Sonali Kolhatkar on June 14, 2021.
“For the past few months, Republicans have been waging a ferocious political battle to end federal unemployment benefits,” writes Sonali Kolhatkar in CounterPunch, “based upon stated desires of saving the US economy from a serious labor shortage. The logic, in the words of Republican politicians like Iowa Senator Joni Ernst, goes like this: ‘the government pays folks more to stay home than to go to work,’ and therefore, ‘[p]aying people not to work is not helpful.’ The conservative Wall Street Journal has been beating the drum for the same argument, saying recently that it was a ‘terrible blunder‘ to pay jobless benefits to unemployed workers.
“If the hyperbolic claims are to be believed, one might imagine American workers are luxuriating in the largesse of taxpayer-funded payments, thumbing their noses at the earnest ‘job creators’ who are taking far more seriously the importance of a post-pandemic economic growth spurt.
“It is true that there are currently millions of jobs going unfilled. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics just released statistics showing that there were 9.3 million job openings in April and that the percentage of layoffs decreased while resignations increased. Taking these statistics at face value, one could conclude this means there is a labor shortage.
“But, as economist Heidi Shierholz explained in a New York Times op-ed, there is only a labor shortage if employers raise wages to match worker demands and subsequently still face a shortage of workers. Shierholz wrote, ‘When those measures [of raising wages] don’t result in a substantial increase in workers, that’s a labor shortage. Absent that dynamic, you can rest easy.’ …