Gordon wrong about causes of unemployment

Submitted by Jim McEvoy
Posted 1/18/22

Dear Editor:

This is in response to Gov. Mark Gordon’s recent columns of Oct. 28 and Nov. 30. He discussed his commitment to “conservative Republican principles” of small …

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Gordon wrong about causes of unemployment


Dear Editor:

This is in response to Gov. Mark Gordon’s recent columns of Oct. 28 and Nov. 30. He discussed his commitment to “conservative Republican principles” of small government, limited regulations and freedom to operate business unconstrained from government mandates. He also discussed his proposed budget as “fiscally conservative and frugal” with emphasis on protecting the state’s core fossil fuel industries from the Biden administration’s “continuous assault” against them. He proposed that Wyoming use the funds from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) to make “strategic investments” for the future. 

On March 11, ARPA was signed into law due to the ongoing economic and public health effects of the COVID pandemic. It addresses needs in child care, public health, housing and small business assistance, the child tax credit and extension of a $300 per week pandemic unemployment benefit through Sept. 6. Our three legislators, of course, voted “No.” 

On May 12, Gordon, along with the governors of 25 mostly Republican states, announced that Wyoming would prematurely end the federal supplemental unemployment benefits in mid-June, supposedly to encourage more hiring. Gordon stated, “incentivizing people not to work is just plain un-American.” This callous remark suggests that he believes in the myth that people receiving unemployment assistance are most likely to delay seeking work for as long as possible because they are lazy. 

In 2020, three COVID relief bills, including the CARES act, were passed with bipartisan support. These included unemployment insurance (UI) funds that expired on July 31.

The Congressional Joint Economic Committee cited five studies that showed that the unemployment benefits did not disincentivize people from returning to work. They stated, “A majority of the unemployed workers who returned to work in June 2020 (before the benefits ended) received more in combined UI funds than their previous wages.” In other words, workers were more likely to take a suitable job offer rather than allow unemployment benefits to end, even if they received more from UI than from wages. 

An August 2021 study showed that in the states that declined the UI funds early, the unemployment rate dropped slightly from 4.8% to 4.5%. However, there was only a $270 million increase in earnings compared with a decrease of $2 billion in worker discretionary spending. A similar result occurred after benefits expired in the remaining states on Labor Day. Therefore, less money moved back into the economy, adversely affecting some businesses.

Despite many job openings, there was not much of a surge in hiring. Why? The reasons are complex and varied. We are still in the pandemic and the delta variant has impacted the economy. Fear of COVID has prevented some from returning to work and interacting with unvaccinated coworkers and customers. Some older workers chose to retire early.

Wages have increased to some extent but job quality, unruly customers angry about mask requirements, long hours and lack of health care have become significant concerns. The hiatus from work during last year’s shut down allowed some people to reassess their career options. Working from home has led to a desire for greater work day flexibility, something that supervisors may not want to accommodate. Others may have difficulty finding employment in their field or preferred geographic area. Child and elder care are also important considerations. 

Gov. Gordon acted ineffectively to appease business interests while ignoring the actual daily realities that people face. The Dec. 14 column by Mandi Simondi — describing her difficulties in providing for the health care needs of her family despite hard work — is a perfect example. Instead, Gordon highlights his limited government conservativism, reflexively blames the Democrats for Wyoming’s fiscal plight, and hypocritically accepts a $1.68 billion handout that our legislators voted against. 

Wyoming needs a new approach that breaks from the unsustainable reliance on fossil fuels to solve its problems. It remains questionable if Mr. Gordon would be willing and able to deliver on this. 

Jim McEvoy