For a long time I have been suspicious that emerging from the recession wasn’t good for everybody. It seemed like a positive thing for the president. He said it was what he wanted and still talks obsessively about bailing us out from the “worst economic crisis” since the Depression. Still, it must have been painful to try to fix something that dumped so many excuses for spending on hardworking people into his newly-elected lap.
That was seven years ago.
Times have changed. With the country at full employment and many hardworking Americans who could have been happy government dependents back at work, Democrats have a big problem. What’s an ambitious, paternalistic liberal politician to do, pretend that the recovery your colleagues are taking credit for never happened?
Actually, things aren’t quite that desperate for our friends on the other side of the divide. If you think their options are running out, you are very wrong.
Hardworking people can still depend on the government for cash?
Yes, that’s what we are hearing. Not only do hardworking people who haven’t made it into the middle class need to depend on the government to fight for their incomes, those already living happy Middle American lives need a handout, too.
In the wake of his Tuesday night swan song, President Obama made a plea for unemployment benefits and wage insurance. Unemployment insurance hasn’t gone anywhere, despite a current estimate of $5.6 billion in improper payments and a staggering 11.3% bad payment goal for 20151 if the final numbers come out right.
Wage insurance is a different matter.
Vexing over the plight of an unemployed woman who finds a job at lesser pay, he suggested:
And if she finds a new job that doesn’t pay as much as her old one, we should offer some wage insurance that helps her pay her bills. Under my plan, experienced workers who now make less than $50,000 could replace half of their lost wages – up to $10,000 over two years. 2
The idea of topping off salaries with wage insurance is nothing new, but unlike unemployment benefits it is still only a bad idea and a timely accompaniment to two other developments coming later this year: a presidential election and Obama’s overtime wage order.
Bar for bailing people out raised to over $50,000
Another part of the picture is the president’s signature on a memorandum that started the ball rolling to pay overtime to people making up to $50,400 annually.3
Backing the president’s plan, Labor Secretary Tom Perez also cited “one of the worst economic crises in our history”4 and pointed out that the president is:
working hard to build lasting economic security for the middle class and those striving for it. It’s why he’s called for raising the minimum wage. And it’s why he directed us at the Department of Labor to address overtime pay protections — to help make sure that millions of workers are paid fairly for a long, hard day’s work.5
Many workers would consider making over $50,000 being paid fairly and would rather keep their jobs than put their employers at risk by having to pay overtime rates. Unfortunately for small businesses, dangling the promise of a broad increase in the standard of living on the backs of job creators is too much to resist and the minimum wage by itself may not get enough people on board to put another Democrat in the White House.
Hardworking people are a foundation, not a cause
This country was built on a foundation of hard work and initiative that will be eroded for the sake of politics if we allow it. One of the things that keeps us going is our fear of what happens when the cash stops coming in. At our current 5% unemployment rate people who want to work should be working.
The employment situation that the White House claimed to want so desperately during the early Obama years has finally happened, whether or not attributable to the president’s efforts. We have to wonder if some on the political fringe would be happier if rampant joblessness was still the norm. At least the White House would have a believable cause to excuse these outrageous proposals for more federal interference in what the private sector pays for a hard day’s work.