We’ve all seen the signs in national parks and wildlife refuges. They are there for a good reason. If you feed wild animals like bears or deer for a length of time, they learn to take and expect food given them by humans. They unlearn the good habits of foraging for food on their own. And when the humans are gone from the parks in winter, many animals continue searching for humans rather than food. They starve to death in the process.
Some may cringe with any comparison between animals and people, but the analogy really is the same. Consider how congressional Democrats and the Biden Administration have transformed the unemployment program to make the beneficiaries dependent upon this unemployment welfare money.
This short-term program, with historically broad bipartisan support, has for decades provided very temporary assistance to those who lost jobs through no fault of their own. Benefits have always been intentionally set on the miserly side (around 50% of pay lost) and were time-limited (usually 26 weeks) so as not to incentivize people to want them for long. Plus, there were stern requirements to actively look for work each week. Weekly checks and more thorough audits were part of the program. No sitting around or taking vacations allowed. During deep recessions, 13-week extensions were often passed.
What a different look the program has now in 2021. Last year’s first stimulus had $600 bonuses on top of regular payments—a first. Republicans grumbled, but nearly every member of Congress voted for the massive stimulus anyway, given the severity of the pandemic at the time. Some in the GOP said the “pay people more not to work” scheme was an error that could be fixed later. Democrats adamantly refused to even consider correcting it.
In March 2021, Democrats stood alone in topping off benefits yet again, by an added $300 in the third stimulus passed without a single GOP vote. It was all so unnecessary since it was a time of strong economic growth. It was month four of the vaccine rollout. Employers were starting to note they could not find people to even apply, never mind accept, job openings. How could anyone even expect businesses to be able to compete with government handouts like this?
Republican governors heard the pleas of businesses and cut off these absurd bonuses starting in late May through July. The federal bonuses to not work that continue in blue states are scheduled for expiration on September 6th. But that’s not enough for leftists who insist they continue in some form. Progressives know there is no appetite for an extension. They know economists have criticized the benefits, and employers now have a record ten million openings nationwide—more than the total of those who are out of work! Spiking inflation, which was predicted for all in America, is the byproduct of such misguided policymaking.
But, in true “nothing is so permanent as a temporary government program” fashion, to quote Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, and Labor Secretary Marty Walsh just announced bonuses can continue even longer. The pair have directed that leftover stimulus money be allowed to continue paying bonuses to not work in states that choose to do so.
When I taught high school economics and got to the unemployment issue each year, I asked the class what they would think if their parents said this to them upon graduating: “You can stay in the home as long as you want. You don’t have to cook, or clean, or work. Your mother and I love you, and we will take care of you forever.” They knew as good as it sounded, it was not in their long-term interest.
There’s nothing helpful or beneficial in paying people to remain out of the workforce for longer than need be. And isn’t 18 months long enough? People lose the sense of structure, meaning, and work ethic that employment provides. They lose valuable skills over time. Some come to learn they never want to work again. Others truly become almost “unemployable.” The losers are not just the workers themselves but the overall economy. Fewer goods and services are produced and at higher prices to boot. All Americans lose.
When did work and enterprise become disparaging terms? They’ve always been core American values. Why did Democrats transform the unemployment program into welfare? Well, the answer is obvious. Just as feeding the animals keeps them coming back, so do Democrats hope that voters will remember who delivered these goodies.
But welfare payments for a few cost everyone else money. Taxpaying voters have had enough and have indicated inflation and shortages are now public enemy number one. Democrats stand to take all the blame, as they control the White House and both houses of Congress.
If only they obeyed the signs posted at national parks.
Jeff Szymanski works in political communications for AMAC, a senior benefits organization with 2.4 million members. He previously taught high school economics for 15 years.
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