In the small town where I live, I recently saw a bartender I know working the checkout counter at a home improvement chain. She told me that after the first round of lockdowns back in March the owner of the bar where she works had given her and her fellow servers two weeks’ worth of their expected tips. But margins are exceedingly narrow in the restaurant business, and heading into December without any prospect of re-opening in sight, he is staring down the possibility of closing down for good. There may not be a job waiting for her in January or February. Should she sell her car? Move back in with her parents? Cancel her wedding? Expanded unemployment benefits of the sort proposed in the latest compromise relief bill will not help her because she is already employed, albeit in a job that pays substantially less than her old one.
Millions of similar stories could be told by working-class people across the country; the plight of unskilled workers in the service industry cuts across geographical, racial, and other supposed divisions in American life. The fact that it is exceedingly difficult for the leadership of the GOP to imagine that $1,200 could make a real difference for these people is perhaps the ultimate indictment of the party.