Negotiations over a planned new Coronavirus relief package have stalled to the point that a $600 a week add-on to unemployment benefits that had been instituted towards the start of the pandemic recently expired. During an appearance on ABC’s This Week on Sunday morning, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin tried to defend his side, which has argued for — among other things — restraint when it comes to unemployment benefits, although the money could literally be the difference between whether many Americans have enough money to eat and pay rent or not. Republicans have argued that extra money — even a meager $600 a week — could give people a reason stay away from work, but host Martha Raddatz pointed out that that’s not even an accurate representation of the full situation.
Mnuchin commented to the host:
‘I think, as you said, Steny Hoyer and others understand that unemployment is supposed to be wage replacement, so it should be tied to some percentage of wages. The fact that we had a flat number was only an issue of an emergency where we had 30-year-old computer systems. So I think on the concept we absolutely agree on enhanced unemployment, we want to fix the issue where in some cases people are overpaid, and we want to make sure there’s the right incentives [to go back to work].’
Mnuchin subsequently insisted that his side had proposed extending the $600 a week in unemployment for one additional week as negotiations continue, as if that’s supposed to sound generous. It’s not.
Raddatz subsequently asked:
‘So you do think it’s a disincentive to find a job if you have that extra $600?’
Mnuchin self-confidently replied:
‘There’s no question, in certain cases where we’re paying people more to stay home than to work — that’s created issues in the entire economy.’
Raddatz cut in and pointed out:
‘A Yale study from this month refutes that, saying that many economists who have studied the benefits say that so far they don’t see any evidence in labor market data that the payments are affecting the rate at which people are returning to work during the pandemic.’
What was Mnuchin’s first response? He glibly pointed out that he “went to Yale,” as if this situation is some kind of elitist game to him.
Watch the exchange below:
Treasury Secretary Mnuchin tells @MarthaRaddatz “there’s no question” that $600 unemployment insurance is a disincentive to find a job in “some cases.”
“There are cases where people are overpaid,” he adds when pressed about study refuting his argument. https://t.co/HNQgCe39RN pic.twitter.com/1zceOdxULW
— This Week (@ThisWeekABC) August 2, 2020
He subsequently pointed out that apparently, there have been cases where people have been paid more in unemployment than they were on the job, but when unemployment benefits are just enough to cover basic expenses — maybe the problem is that Mnuchin and his allies are prioritizing funneling people back into their jobs with starvation wages rather than getting Americans the actual support that they need. It’s appalling how Mnuchin wants to spend his Sunday morning on national television philosophizing about how poor Americans might be getting too much financial support.
This weekend, as this tumult proceeds, Trump is golfing yet again. He’s visited one of his company’s golf courses on both Saturday and Sunday, using huge sums of taxpayer money for his travel expenses in the process.