by Donna Martinez
Former Senior Writer and Editor, John Locke Foundation
It’s happened to me twice.
The first time was about a month ago, when I grabbed a take-out order from my favorite Wake County sandwich shop. I was one of the last people who walked in before the manager shut the doors early – at 6 p.m. – because of a staffing shortage. I watched as at least half a dozen groups of people tried to get in, only to find the doors locked. Revenue for the sandwich shop was literally walking away with puzzled looks on their faces.
The second time was last weekend. My sandwich shop was open – but only for take-out. The dining room was dark. Normally a hustle-and-bustle kind of place, the chairs were not only empty, they were stacked on top of the tables. The reason? According to the harried but friendly help, not enough staff to keep the dining area clean.
We know what the problem is. Businesses are being forced to compete with federal government unemployment benefits. It’s an extra $300 per week on top of state unemployment benefits, and the White House has no problem with this. That’s not my opinion; it comes straight from White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki, who puts the responsibility on the businesses.
Listen to this exchange at White House press briefing this week between a reporter who points out the problem and data about wage growth, and then the message delivered by Psaki to businesses who can’t find workers.
So, Psaki – speaking for President Biden – says it’s “a workers’ market right now.” Well, yes, you could put it that way. But why? Not because of market forces and/or lack of a labor pool. The market is distorted. It’s because employers are no match against the federal government’s subsidy – which is a financial incentive to stay home. We should be concerned about the economic impact, as well as the fact that this prolonged subsidy robs people of the dignity and stability provided by work.
Astonishingly, Gov. Roy Cooper is fine with this, just as President Biden is. But state legislative leaders aren’t. They’re trying to put an end to this perverse incentive against work, as Carolina Journal reports. But it’s Cooper who stands in the way.
Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed a bill Friday that would have ended $300 in extra weekly federal unemployment benefits in North Carolina. The bill also would have tightened job search requirements to continue collecting unemployment.North Carolina would have joined 25 other states in cutting off the federal unemployment supplement. Other states have cited labor shortages as the reason for ending federal benefits.Senate Bill 116, “Putting North Carolina Back to Work Act,” passed the Senate with a vote of 26-22 and the House by 66-44. Three Democrats voted in favor of it in the House, and none in the Senate.
Bipartisan support and Cooper still issues the veto. As of this writing, no override vote has been scheduled. If/when a vote is scheduled, it will have the backing of North Carolinians, who clearly see what’s going on here.
The most recent Civitas Poll found that 61% of North Carolinians supported ending the extra federal unemployment payments, and 57% believed that the federal supplement provides an incentive to remain unemployed. The poll was conducted by Cygnal for the John Locke Foundation, surveying 600 likely voters with a margin of error of +/- 4%.
Joe Biden and Roy Cooper are both out of step with North Carolina, with economics, and with common sense. Thanks to vaccines, the pandemic is mostly in the rear-view mirror, but our president and governor continue to force an outsized and destructive role for government.