Enough with the enhanced unemployment benefits say... Democrats?

AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta

The current tranche of federally enhanced unemployment benefits doesn’t run out until September so I’m not sure why anyone is talking about this now, but they are. Questions are being raised by some Democrats, including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, about when and how to push the program out even further. But it appears that even among his own caucus, enthusiasm is waning. Politico talked to a few “moderate Democrats” off the record and even obtained some quotes from King Joseph of West Virginia. Despite repeated reports of employers being unable to tempt their former employees back to work, however, there are still some on the left insisting that those payments certainly can’t have anything to do with people staying at home. The whole thing is turning into a circus already, but the curtain may be about to fall.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said at a Tuesday press conference there was “overwhelming support” among Democrats to keep providing the additional money to existing unemployment insurance. But not every member of his caucus is on board, particularly after last week’s weaker-than-expected April jobs report.

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) is already making it clear he will not support extending the benefits past September 6.

“I’ll never vote for another extension as long as I know that with the vaccines, there’s not an excuse for no one to be vaccinated,” the moderate Democrat said. “I understand there’s millions of jobs in America that we can’t fill right now. So we need people back to work. There’s more and more people understanding they’re in trouble.”

Is it just me or is Joe Manchin sounding more like a Republican these days than some of the actual Republicans? Manchin appears to be the only one going on record thus far, but some anonymous Dems were allegedly telling Politico the same thing, and it’s coming from both chambers of Congress. When they asked one House Democrat if there would be another round of payments being dished out, they reportedly said, “God, I hope not.”

So the real question is whether some of the Democrats talking up the continuation of the plan are just putting on a brave face or if they’re simply delusional. Schumer is saying there’s “overwhelming support” among Democrats. In his case, I’m more tempted to think he’s just trying to portray a unified front for his party, knowing he can always walk it back later.

More curious is Ron Wyden of Oregon. Check out what he had to say about the stories describing how the high unemployment checks are keeping people at home.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), the chair of the Senate Finance Committee, said there had been “report after report indicating” it was “not accurate” that the benefits discouraged work. He cited the need for childcare and the reduction of public transit service in many cities as several of the factors affecting the labor market.

Seriously? He’s seen “report after report” about this? I’ve yet to see any official numbers and I don’t know how they would be generated. This is primarily anecdotal for the most part. If he means news reports, I haven’t seen any of those supporting his claim either. What I have seen are interviews done with both employers who can’t find workers and workers who said the unemployment checks were a better deal in North Caroline, in Boston and Chicago. I’ve read quotes from an economist who thinks the problem is bad enough that the government needs to approve “reemployment bonuses” to get people up off their couches and back on the job.

People are already noticing and commenting on this phenomenon now, in May, when we aren’t even at 50% vaccination rates yet. What do you think they’ll be saying in September when the current program is set to expire and we’re (hopefully) up at 70% or more and every employer in the country is either already open or trying to reopen? It’s just one more thing that people are growing tired of seeing the federal government use as an excuse to set more money on fire.

Perhaps I’m asking the wrong question, however. Let’s try a different one. How long will it be before one of the Democrats steps forward and proposes just making the enhanced benefits permanent? Bernie Sanders? AOC? Elizbeth Warren? Come on, guys. Who wants to go first?