Opinion — Off to La La Land

Published 4:11 pm Tuesday, September 14, 2021

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For those who aren’t convinced that national journalism has problems understanding the difference between fact and fiction, I thought I would share with you an editorial piece that appeared last week. The writer is either totally mired in the woke culture, uneducated in economics, totally clueless to how the world works, or most likely all of these.

The piece was written by John L. Micek whose columns appear in 800 publications around the country. His goal was to attack and debunk the idea that employers are having a hard time getting and keeping employees because of the generous federal unemployment payments.

Below are several quotes from his column and my reaction to them:

He wrote, “The other week, the bistro where my family and I have been grabbing brunch every Sunday since the start of the pandemic announced that it would be shuttering on weekends, and shifting to a more limited, weekday schedule. The reason was a familiar one: The owner couldn’t find the staff they needed to both function effectively and to keep themselves and their current staff from being ground into dust from the punishing pace.

The news was heartbreaking, if entirely unsurprising. Employers across the nation are struggling with a labor shortage so profound that one Alabama pizzeria vowed to hire “literally anyone” just to keep the doors open, Business Insider reported earlier this week.”

Micek continued, “Business leaders have falsely blamed the crisis on generous pandemic unemployment benefits, arguing that they’re a disincentive to return to the labor force. Study after study has proven this is not the case. Instead, more seismic forces are at work. … there’s just a genuine question of whether grinding it out for 40 hours a week at a job with substandard pay, low benefits, and little work-home balance is really worth it. In the midst of the pandemic, workers across industries discovered something: When they weren’t tethered to desks or jobs, there was time for something miraculous: Family and community, the hobby they’d been putting off learning, the time to retrain and search for new, and more fulfilling, work.”

As you see, he starts writing about those working in restaurants and in the service industry, then interestingly he changes gears and writes about issues that focus on office workers. He successfully confuses the reader by mixing together the issues of workers in offices that had the luxury of working from home, not having to worry about getting out of their pajamas, and getting to play with their children, who must now look at the world differently. Now they face once again getting up earlier, dressing, dealing with traffic and parking. These are headaches they were able to avoid for a year. Some in this category now understand there is a life away from the office and are currently looking to find new jobs that allow them to remain at home. These are legitimate issues not based on low wages, but rather based on quality-of-life issues.

However, the group that he first referenced are the businesses that need hands on employees. This group of employees never had the luxury of working from home. In most cases, their employers were forced to close. As things improved, they either returned to work or continued to draw unemployment. Often the unemployment payments made it illogical to return to work. Therefore, to get employees in the hospitality industry, many this summer have relied on students that didn’t qualify for unemployment.

Mr. Micek declares that businessmen and conservatives are simply wrong that the federal unemployment payments are not the reason that jobs are going unfilled.

Looking at Real Data

Looking at the Department of Labor Statistics for July, you’ll see that the 10 states with lowest unemployment rates are states that ended federal unemployment payments in June, averaging 3% unemployment. Meanwhile, the 10 states with the highest unemployment, averaging 7.3%, all have continued to allow citizens to receive those bonus benefits as a reward for not working.

It certainly appears that this might be a major factor in people remaining out of the workforce. In Virginia, we will see what those 60,000 individuals will do when they are cut off from the federal payments this week.

If I am right, you will see restaurants better able to serve customers.

Frank Ruff Jr. represents Charlotte in the state Senate. His email address is Sen.Ruff@verizon.net.