Democrat Rep. Val Demings (D-FL), a candidate for U.S. Senate in the state of Florida, is slamming her state’s GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis and Republicans like her opponent Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) for a move to cut off federal unemployment insurance benefits that have for months paid people more to stay home than to work.
Demings said in an interview with MSNBC’s Chris Hayes on Monday evening:
I really think it’s pretty shameful and thank you for mentioned that it is supported by Marco Rubio. Look, 2020 was a tough year. We lost 600,000 people. We also know that hundreds of thousands of people were put out of work through no fault of their own. Those unemployment benefits were there to help people who weren’t in trouble—people who were going to work every day, by the way—who were in trouble through no fault of their own. Now, I believe we have an obligation to do that, but not only to help them during tough times, but also it helps them to be able to pay their bills, to be able to buy groceries, to be able to pay their rent—which also stimulates our economy. So I really think it is shameful what governors around this nation are doing, but also senators from Florida and senators from other states. Government’s primary responsibility is to help the American people through some of the toughest of times. Marco Rubio chose not to do that and too many others chose not to do that. That’s why we need to change the kind of people that we send to Congress.
DeSantis joined dozens of other GOP governors nationwide in recent weeks in announcing a looming end to the boondoggle federal unemployment program that tops up state-level benefits for out-of-work residents of their states. The federal unemployment insurance program first passed into law on a bipartisan basis at the very beginning of the pandemic under now former President Donald Trump and was extended multiple times, including most recently on a purely partisan basis as part of now-President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus spending plan. Before the pandemic, the federal government did not offer unemployment benefits to anyone at all—only states did. But this program began paying people—combined with state benefits they concurrently receive—oftentimes more to stay home and collect unemployment than they would be paid to actually work.
In states that are just beginning to reopen—mostly blue Democrat-run states like New York or California—this broader problem of the perverse incentives paying people more from the government to not work than they would make actually going to work has not yet materialized. But in red states like Florida and Texas and other GOP-led states that ditched many of the blue state coronavirus restrictions like masks and lockdowns and capacity limits in some cases, like in Florida more than a year ago, businesses are having trouble finding workers.
Many restaurants and businesses throughout Florida are either unable to fully open as a result of the inability to attract enough workers to staff them—or are coming up with creative solutions to address understaffing issues.
In large part because of the Biden-Democrat extension of the unemployment benefits in that $1,9 trillion coronavirus spending plan—and because Democrats want to just keep extending it in future legislative packages—jobs numbers have come in below expectations for three straight months, in April, May, and June. The malaise could continue into the fall, and severely slow an economic recovery that Trump started but Biden has weighed down.
Rubio, in a recent Tampa Bay Times oped published earlier in June, warned about the threat to the economy that continuing the benefits that pay people more not to work than to work represents:
After a year of devastating human losses and debilitating lockdowns to curb the spread of the coronavirus, small businesses in Tampa are staring down another challenge today: an inability to find new workers. Why? Much of the reason has to do with the Biden administration’s unemployment benefits, which are so massive that they’re incentivizing would-be workers to stay home instead of looking for jobs. Even with vaccination rates soaring and COVID-19 case counts plummeting, the administration’s policies are now, for millions, precluding getting back to normal. After all, if you’re going to make almost as much — or even more, in some cases — without a job than you would with one, you’re going stay home until you know the benefits run out. These people are just following President Joe Biden’s logic. And in nearly all states controlled by Democrats, the benefits will continue on and on until Labor Day.
Rubio noted that “thankfully” Florida’s DeSantis is ending the program amid these failures this month. He wrote:
But look at the damage already done. For the last month, I’ve seen signs in coffee shops and convenience stores across the state noting they’re understaffed because of the ‘labor crisis,’ many begging for applicants. This isn’t just some minor inconvenience; for small businesses, many of which have served their communities for generations, it’s a life-or-death scenario.
Rubio’s oped came just as Breitbart News published a lengthy interview with him conducted in Miami where he warned that the Biden administration perverted successful economic interventions the Trump administration had made to counter the negative effects of the pandemic. The interview, conducted in a Cuban restaurant that had one of those very signs Rubio wrote about hanging in the window, warning patrons of the lack of staff due to the government benefits and asking anyone interested to apply to work there, focused in large part on the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) from the Trump administration. PPP was a forgivable loan small business assistance pipeline—which Rubio conceived in the Senate in the early days of the pandemic before it eventually won bipartisan support and Trump’s administration administered it—that gave out hundreds of billions of dollars to small businesses nationwide. Now that Biden has come into office though, Rubio said his team has hampered the PPP, distorting it so much it is unrecognizable, all while—and combined with the unemployment insurance mistakes from Washington, DC—causing more harm than good.
“The worst thing that could happen is millions of people who work for a small business get laid off, spend months not working—so now, collecting unemployment—and it’s corrosive,” Rubio told Breitbart News in that interview. “It’s destructive to your life, to your person. Work is about a lot more than just a paycheck. That’s why it’s called the Paycheck Protection Program. We wanted to keep as many—at a time of tremendous uncertainty—we wanted to keep as many people attached to their employer as possible. Of course, that helped the small businesses. It was an enormous success, and the Trump administration deserves a lot of credit. They bent over backwards to make it work. It’s unfortunate because you’re watching what’s happening with it now, and since January, it’s been a catastrophe. The Biden administration’s SBA people—they’re terrible. They’ve continued to change the rules. They’ve injected all kinds of crazy new requirements in it that have confused everybody. But I can tell you, by and large, PPP was—I think—the most valuable and effective government intervention in a time of crisis that we’ve seen certainly in my lifetime.”
All of this makes Demings’s decision to campaign for government spending that would further harm her state’s economy—and potential workers’ employment prospects—all the more curious. Sure, it fits with the stereotypical Democrat image of big government spending—and with handing out cash and government benefits to people regardless of whether they need it—but overall the crushing effects on the economy could be disastrous should Demings get her way.
Combine this with rising inflation and consumer costs, and there could be disastrous economic—and more importantly for Democrats like Demings, political—implications and consequences for the partisan Biden $1.9 trillion coronavirus spending plan and broader economic interventions. How it all plays out from here remains to be seen as the data keeps trickling in, and the puzzle pieces come together showing how effective—or not—Biden has been as president, and by extension how effective Democrats in Congress have been, so far into this experiment of complete Democrat control in Washington.
This weekend, House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy released a memo warning of the “crisis” the nation faces as a result of the Biden economic policies.
“This should be a time when that optimism is met with more opportunity. Instead, our country is in crisis,” McCarthy wrote. “Americans planning to get back into the office and travel with their families face the highest gas prices in seven years – when Joe Biden was Vice President. If they are in the market to buy a car, the sticker shock is forcing them to reconsider or pay significantly more than the asking price. Our grocery bills are rising too. Milk, bacon, and meat, just to name a few, are now more expensive than recent years. Several companies, like General Mills, have explicitly warned they will soon be forced to raise prices on their products as ingredients get more expensive. Hormel Foods already did – just look at Skippy peanut butter. Overall, consumer costs have risen by the highest rate in 13 years. This inflation is a tax on Americans and is directly related to the Democrats’ reckless policies.”