FARGO — Republicans were spiking the football Monday, June 28, joyous over a Wall Street Journal report that jobless benefits claims were dropping in states where GOP governors nixed a federal $300 supplement to the usual unemployment aid.
"That'll get the bums back to work!" was the rallying cry from local newspapers to Fox News. North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum took a victory lap on Twitter.
Except that, you know, there's no evidence yet that the bums are going back to work to provide cheap labor to which American business believes it's entitled.
Those Americans who left the workforce during the pandemic, either by choice or otherwise, are not bums, of course. Not the vast majority anyway. That just happens to be the Republican definition for their constituents who don't feel like taking a job for $9 an hour with no benefits.
Some Americans have made the conscious decision to hold out for more, to wait to see if something better comes along. The market favors them at the moment and they are seeing if they can make capitalism work for them.
Or, perhaps, couples with children have looked at one of their incomes vs. the cost of child care and said, "It's not worth it. One of us is staying home with the kids."
Capitalism can work both ways, you see. It's true. Sometimes it favors employees instead of employers. Funny how Republicans don't seem to relish that, being the party that claims to love the free market. Right now workers are in demand, meaning they have the leverage to say "pay me."
And if businesses decide they don't want to pay, or can't afford to pay, isn't that capitalism, too? Only the strongest survive, right?
The same day the Wall Street Journal article sent conservatives into fluttering spasms of joy, The New York Times published a story saying that despite states like Missouri cutting jobless benefits, "work-force development officials said they had seen virtually no uptick in applicants since the governor’s announcement, which ended a $300 weekly supplement to other benefits."
The article laid out a scenario that seems obvious to everyone but Republicans and many business owners: Unemployed workers have decided they want better pay, hours, benefits and treatment.
Many employers, used to decades of having an endless supply of cheap and submissive labor, are frustrated. Republican politicians believe they can force workers into jobs they don't want by stripping unemployment benefits.
Maybe they can.
So far, they can't. It's early and that might change; time would seem to favor employers over workers.
But it's clear something bigger is at play in the post-pandemic U.S. Employers who offer low-wage, no-benefits jobs are having a hard time because workers have decided they don't want them.
Truth is, this might take awhile to sort out. Some industries — fast-food and other restaurants come to mind — might never be the same. This is far more complicated than trying to starve people into unattractive jobs.
Republicans don't seem to grasp that, given that they're spiking the ball at the 20-yard line.
Readers can reach columnist Mike McFeely at firstname.lastname@example.org