White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki has the patience of a saint with reporters from conservative media outlets who act more like paid trolls than journalists. During Monday’s press briefing, Psaki tore apart Fox News correspondent Peter Doocy’s claims that unemployment benefits incentivize recipients to forgo seeking work.
“So, unemployment only rose by about 266,000 jobs in April out of 7.4 million or so job openings. How does the White House know that people are just choosing not to apply for jobs because the extra unemployment benefits are so good?” Doocy asked.
“Well first let me say that we have looked at the data and [Federal Reserve] Secretary [Janet] Yellin referred to his on Friday or talked about this on Friday. We don’t see much evidence that the extra unemployment insurance is a major driver in people not rejoining the work force. We actually see the data and our analysis shows that the lack of vaccinations, the lower rate, which is why I refer to the data and the week that it was taken – it has an impact. Child care has an impact. Schools reopening has an impact. But there’s also the need to pay a livable working wage, and that’s one of the reasons the president will talk about that this afternoon,” replied Psaki.
“But as Bank of America economists were cited in a Bloomberg story, anybody who is making $32,000 a year is better off financially just taking the unemployment benefits. So is the White House creating an incentive just to stay home?” Doocy added.
Psaki reminded Doocy that enhanced unemployment benefits were implemented because of the economic disaster brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Well, again, the majority of economists internally and externally at the White House don’t feel that unemployment insurance – something that was done at a time to help unemployed people get through a very difficult economic downturn during a pandemic – is a major driver in our unemployment data, that there are other factors, bigger factors that were contributing, have been contributing to the [jobs] numbers we saw on Friday. That’s what we’re working to address and that’s where we think our solutions should be focused,” Psaki said.
It should also be mentioned that cities and states “reopening” does not necessarily mean that some or most of the jobs that were lost will return any time soon. Hundreds of thousands of small businesses – especially restaurants and bars – were wiped out in 2020. Many larger companies were forced to downsize their workforces and restructure their work environments to home settings, eliminating the need for office spaces and pricey overhead.
The nature of work itself is being reinvented in real-time. The coronavirus crisis created a window of opportunity for people to reevaluate their work-life balances and their career choices and sparked a reckoning among millions of people who no longer want to be bound to full-time jobs – many of which are menial and not far off from automation – only to end up broke.
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Brandon is a political writer for the Hill Reporter specializing in current events, breaking news, and scientific discovery. Brandon holds a Bachelor of Music degree from Indiana University. He lives in New York City.