Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Reopening Isn’t Reopening—It’s Cutting Off Unemployment

Donald Trump, cheering on his “warriors” who demand that states lift their lockdown and distancing orders (where they have them), would have you believe this is about bringing the economy back to life so ordinary people can get their jobs and normal lives back.  Elitist liberals who work from home and have country estates to retreat to don’t care, but “real” people do.

The reality is different.  The shuttering of stores, restaurants, hotels and workplaces didn’t begin with government orders and won’t end with them.  If the rate of new infection and death is too high, a lot of people won’t go along.  Not everyone, but enough to make a huge economic difference.  Ask any small business owner what it would mean for demand to drop by 25-50%.  Lifting government orders won’t magically restore the economic conditions of mid-winter.

So what’s it about?  Even as it makes a big PR show of supporting state by state “liberation” in America, the Trump administration is advising state governments on how to remove workers from unemployment insurance once orders are lifted.  Without government directives, employers can demand workers show up, and if they refuse they no longer qualify.  And why might workers refuse?  Perhaps because their workplaces are still unsafe and they have vulnerable family members they want to keep from getting infected?  Not good enough—once the state has been “liberated”.

How should we respond to this travesty?  First, of course, by telling the truth that an anti-worker, anti-human campaign is being conducted under the guise of defending workers.  If the Democrats weren’t themselves such a tool of business interests we might hear that narrative from them, but the rest of us are free to speak out and should start doing it, loudly, wherever we can.

Second, one of the laws of the land is the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, which gives workers the right to refuse imminently hazardous work.  This hasn’t been used very often, nor is there much case law around it, but the current pandemic is a good reason to pull it out of storage.  If there are public interest law firms looking for something useful to do during distancing, they could advertise their willingness to defend workers who need to stay home until work is safe—while still getting their paycheck.  If employers thought the choice was between public support for workers sitting out the pandemic or their support for them we might hear less about “liberation”.

25 comments:

Anonymous said...

Really excellent essay; the questions being who among us are social democrats and are there enough to matter.

rosserjb@jmu.edu said...

In several European nations including UK I think, governments have simply taken over paying workers their regular wages/salaries for the duration, which is a lot simpler than the complicated and hit and miss things being done in the US.

ilsm said...

Here is an interesting editorial on "how pandemics end".

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/10/health/coronavirus-plague-pandemic-history.html?utm_source=pocket-newtab

In Covid 19 there is too much "politics" already.

Anonymous: given the kluge called a relief act initiated in the democrat controlled US House social democrats are as rare as independent senators...... At all levels of government in the US.

Anonymous said...

Interesting and distressingly enough, the New York Times just reported that the governor of New York inserted a protection clause in the state budget bill this March so that Nursing Home Owners could not be sued by families of patients who were sickened or died during the epidemic. Of course, nursing homes were soon after ridden with sickness and death but the negligence represented will not matter. So we have the makings of a Governor Cuomo.

Anonymous said...

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/13/nyregion/nursing-homes-coronavirus-new-york.html

May 13, 2020

Buried in N.Y. Budget: Legal Shield for Nursing Homes Rife With Virus

Anonymous said...

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/13/us/coronavirus-cases-deaths.html

May 13, 2020

Trump Pushes to Reopen Schools, Appearing to Reject Warning From Fauci
President Trump criticized Senate testimony from Dr. Anthony Fauci, who had urged caution. “To me it’s not an acceptable answer,” Mr. Trump said.

Anonymous said...

Agree that having the government simply taking over payroll directly using information from employers (e.g., IRS Form 941s) is the most efficient way to get money in the hands of employees - not sure that all employers are going to pass along funds received for payroll.

One other tactic beyond OSHA would be, assuming that you have an underlying health condition that is serious enough to be classified as a disability, to ask for a 'reasonable accommodation' under the Americans with Disabilities Act (e.g., providing PPE at work or being able to work from home).

Suggest perhaps making Meals Ready to Eat (MRE) stockpiles available to food banks - many are being missed between the $1,200 and Payroll Protection, so food bank lines are long.

BobFallbrook said...

Very enlightening and one sided comments about why staying in lock down mode and continuing to take unemployment is preferable to returning to the dangers of being back in the work force. Have you ever considered that the employees themselves may prefer to return to their jobs and to enjoy the pride and social benefits of their work. You who work from home and make a living by a stroke of the keyboard have lost perspective of what goes on in real life. I hear from small business owners who are opening up that their employees want to return to work but that the unemployment pay is superior to their hourly rate so they want more money or they will stay home. Ever considered those thoughts?

Mighty Bobcat said...

Other than Mr. Fallbrook no one seems to note that people wish to work, and that keyboard warriors fail to note the consequences of unemployment such as reduced medical care, death from stress and suicide in despair.

I bet no one on these comments have ever eaten an MRE, but sure are happy to serve it up to others.

Anonymous said...

I hear from small business owners who are opening up that their employees want to return to work but that the unemployment pay is superior to their hourly rate so they want more money or they will stay home....

[ Rubbish, since employees who do not return to work will lose unemployment benefits. This however is what trolling is or so "I hear from small business owners." ]

Anonymous said...

There is a reason we are now at 86,468 coronavirus deaths, the reason being a broad unwillingness to properly value life and health:

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/14/climate/trump-drinking-water-perchlorate.html

May 14, 2020

E.P.A. Opts Against Limits on Water Contaminant Tied to Fetal Damage

A new E.P.A. policy on perchlorate, which is used in rocket fuel, would revoke a 2011 finding that the chemical should be regulated.

ilsm said...

Climate change in the pandemic is a red herring.

True statement:

"the reason being a broad unwillingness to properly value life and health"

Covid 19 morbidity in the US uncovers a poverty dimension to degraded immune system perils of the disease. This is directly related to the failed [ignored] public health system that has been decaying for decades.

Please do not let climate disaster divert attention from broader issues concerning poverty and neglect of the general welfare of the poor.

There are no social democrats in the US.


Bill H aka run75441 said...

Mr. Bob and Mr. Mighty:

Who says the unemployed are not eligible for healthcare benefits? They are eligible for Medicaid as Medicaid considers what your income is at the time you are unemployed and not on a yearly basis. Also from the time you are unemployed you have 60 days to apply for healthcare insurance on the Exchanges if other income is greater than Medicaid limits.

Furthermore, there are other healthcare hazards you can contract from COVID 19 such as heart issues, arterial issues, kidney issues, etc. This is not just the flu bug. The odds are 1 in 12 you may die from Covid if you contract it.

Anonymous said...

ilsm:

Please do not let climate disaster divert attention from broader issues concerning poverty and neglect of the general welfare of the poor.

[ Agreed completely. ]

Anonymous said...

Bill H aka run75441:

Furthermore, there are other healthcare hazards you can contract from COVID 19 such as heart issues, arterial issues, kidney issues, etc. This is not just the flu bug. The odds are 1 in 12 you may die from Covid if you contract it.

[ Importantly so:

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/14/opinion/coronavirus-young-people.html

May 14, 2020

‘I Wish I Could Do Something for You,’ My Doctor Said
Young, healthy people like me are getting very, very sick from the disease caused by the coronavirus.
By Mara Gay

The day before I got sick, I ran three miles, walked 10 more, then raced up the stairs to my fifth-floor apartment as always, slinging laundry with me as I went.

The next day, April 17, I became one of the thousands of New Yorkers to fall ill with Covid-19. I haven’t felt the same since.... ]

Bill H aka run75441 said...

Anonymous/Anne:

It has been a while since you and I exchanged comments. I hope this finds you well in today's dangerous health environment. As I can see, you are still a library of information. I still write on healthcare, supply chain, political interests, etc.

Michigan is in a terrible state of being, due to Republican interests in control of the legislature (Senate 100% and House 2/3rds of the time) since 1990 and governorship 2 of 3 times till Whitmer took office. The crazies are protesting under the false pretense of "their" liberties being violated without regard how their dangerous action impacting the liberty of others. This is what people such as Mr. Bob and Mr. Mighty neglect in their diatribe.

Peter has placed the same "Reopening" article up at Angry Bear. I would invite you to comment there also with your information also.

Thank you for your comment.

Anonymous said...

Bill H aka run75441:

Thank you so much and do be well for this is indeed and necessarily a worrisome time.

Anonymous said...

Regarding "also from the time you are unemployed you have 60 days to apply for healthcare insurance on the Exchanges if other income is greater than Medicaid limits.", there is a case in front of SCOTUS that could result in those exchanges being invalidated if the affordable care act is struck down. Not the best timing...

Mary King said...

Thanks for clearly stating what should be plainly obvious to more people!!! It's a true public service!

Anonymous said...

Bill H aka run75441:

Michigan is in a terrible state of being, due to Republican interests in control of the legislature (Senate 100% and House 2/3rds of the time) since 1990 and governorship 2 of 3 times till Whitmer took office.

[ I would not have guessed that Republican legislative majorities in Michigan go back nearly so far as 1990. I would have wrongly guessed the state still had a Democratic bent beyond 1990 even all those years after the New Deal.

As for Michigan and the effect of the coronavirus, the state is being harshly effected and resistance to the governor's public health cautions could extend the emergency. ]

Hedgehoog said...

The plan to cut off unemployment is probably a little too complicated for Trump to have thought up himself. No doubt, his economic advisors like Kudlow and Navarro came up with the plan along with their employer liability avoidance plan. Trump's thought process doesn't extend beyond what can he do or say right now to help his reelection chances - he is facing jail time if he can't win reelection and thereby run out the statute of limitations.

Anonymous said...

Wearing a mask is important:

https://www.pnas.org/content/early/2020/05/12/2006874117

May 13, 2020

The airborne lifetime of small speech droplets and their potential importance in SARS-CoV-2 transmission
By Valentyn Stadnytskyi, Christina E. Bax, Adriaan Bax and Philip Anfinrud

Abstract

Speech droplets generated by asymptomatic carriers of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) are increasingly considered to be a likely mode of disease transmission. Highly sensitive laser light scattering observations have revealed that loud speech can emit thousands of oral fluid droplets per second. In a closed, stagnant air environment, they disappear from the window of view with time constants in the range of 8 to 14 min, which corresponds to droplet nuclei of ca. 4 μm diameter, or 12- to 21-μm droplets prior to dehydration. These observations confirm that there is a substantial probability that normal speaking causes airborne virus transmission in confined environments.

Sandwichman said...

I hear from small business owners that they are sick and tired of being used as a rhetorical foil by right-wing propagandists. By the way, there are no fewer than eight small business owners in my immediate family.

rosserjb@jmu.edu said...

Bill H,

For the record, Peter's stuff goes up here first and then goes to Angry Bear, not the other way around. Same with posts by me and Sandwichman and pgl.

Barkley

Bill H aka run75441 said...

Barkley:

To my knowledge, I have not yet posted any one of Econospeak's posts to the front page of AB before it is posted on Econospeak. Dan releases Econospeak's posts.