Wednesday, May 25

ANALYSIS | Tough employment report stirs up battle in Washington ahead of crucial week

(CNN) — A break in the latest US government jobs report is electrifying Washington’s battle over Joe Biden’s hugely ambitious programs and offers an early clue to the political danger the president could face if the economy does not recover strongly.

The data, showing that 266,000 new positions were added in April, a quarter of the number analysts had expected, had the effect of convincing both Republican and Democratic lawmakers, who are returning to Washington this week, that their positions Opposites in economics and politics are justified.

The report will further stimulate an already tense atmosphere in Washington as divisions are hardening after Biden’s first 100 days in office. The president will deliver remarks on the economy on Monday, then will host the top four House and Senate leaders for talks for the first time on Wednesday. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell will attend the meeting just days after saying that 100% of his focus is on obstructing the new presidency. Meanwhile, the White House is building a strong push for Biden’s infrastructure package. Presenting the plan as a massive employment package will gain even more resonance given the heated debate over unemployment.

It’s always unwise to draw radical conclusions about a single employment report, especially since there are other statistical and anecdotal signs that the economy may be poised for a post-pandemic boom. But he tries to tell that to Washington politicians who are on the alert for any developments that may define the first months of a new administration.

The Republican Party swooped in, as it seeks to generate public distrust in Biden’s economic policies, arguing that his strategy of spending billions of dollars on large federal programs is already proving to be counterproductive.

The below-expectations employment report also offered the party a problem joining that did not involve internal recriminations over an attempt by House Republicans to oust Wyoming Representative Liz Cheney from her leadership position for refusing to buy into former President Donald Trump’s lies about voter fraud, which will take center stage with a conference vote likely this week.

Democrats used the same evidence that Republicans say shows that Biden is hurting the economy, to argue that the government should redouble its efforts to help less well-off Americans still mired in the economic dislocation of the pandemic. That group has historically benefited less from past recoveries than wealthier Americans and is the key constituency the president is targeting in the broadest attempt to remake the economy in decades.

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‘Headed in the right direction’

White House covid-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients called the report a glimmer of a generally positive trend, following an excellent report in March that beat expectations and showed 916,000 jobs have been created, though since then. it has been revised down to 770,000.

“We are heading in the right direction,” Zients told Jake Tapper on CNN’s “State of the Union” coverage.

South Carolina Rep. James Clyburn, the No. 3 House Democrat, responded to claims by Republicans that unemployment benefits provided under Biden’s $ 1.9 trillion covid relief plan were convincing many Americans not to return to work, after a group of Republican governors announced that they would block extended federal aid.

“I’ll tell you that we may be talking about the big lie when it comes to elections, but very close to that is the notion that people don’t want to work. I haven’t met any of those people who don’t want to work, “Clyburn said in” State of the Union. “

Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” that it was appropriate for governors of some regions to respond to their local job market. But he also criticized the logic of the Republican argument that unemployment benefits keep people from going back to work.

“There is nothing in the data to suggest that this is why people are out of work,” Raimondo said.

“We have to remember that when the president moved to make this happen, this unemployment insurance has been a lifeline, a survival lifeline for so many Americans,” he added.

Republican governor says cutting unemployment benefits is ‘a good idea’

With Biden gearing up for a bipartisan boost in the next phase of his economic agenda, Republicans took advantage of disappointing figures released Friday to claim that Biden’s large forms of spending are already hurting the economy and that his plans to raise corporate taxes, to pay for a comprehensive infrastructure overhaul, it would stunt growth. They are also demanding an end to all social distancing measures, even in areas where the pandemic still continues.

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“If Joe Biden had done nothing, the jobs report would be higher and more people would be working today,” said California House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy on “Sunday Morning Futures” on Fox News.

Republicans, who enjoy the luxury of being in the opposition, are making politically convenient arguments that fit their ideology. Before the employment report, they said the economy was doing so well that higher government spending is not necessary. Now they argue that extended federal unemployment benefits are preventing people from returning to work. The group of Republican governors slashing the $ 300 a week in extended unemployment benefits is trying to force people back to work in low-wage jobs.

Republican Utah Gov. Spencer Cox told Tapper that cutting those benefits was “a good idea.”

“The purpose of those funds was absolutely critical during the pandemic, while we were fighting. We are now towards the end of the pandemic. And here in Utah, our unemployment is 2.9%, the lowest in the nation, ”Cox said.

“The biggest problem we have right now in the state of Utah is finding workers for the jobs that are available.”

A unique recovery

As the economy continues to open up, more vaccines are launched and the country gears up for a strong summer of travel, future job reports from the Department of Labor may show significant improvements.

But the shocking news on Friday also suggested that there are unique circumstances at play in a post-pandemic economy that are generally not in the mix after a recession.

Given still genuine public health fears and with the virus still at high levels, it would not be surprising if some workers in positions close to the minimum wage feel more secure continuing to receive unemployment benefits, even as more and more Americans take advantage. vaccines. Sectors that like restaurants, which depend on intense, exhausting and often poorly paid work, have enormous difficulties in attracting enough staff to function fully.

While Republicans say the answer is to cut profits, Democrats, even in the Biden White House, emphasize that such conditions are exactly why vulnerable industries like the hotel sector need public support. Biden spent time last week, for example, promoting a program specifically designed to help restaurants through a still difficult period.

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The new unemployment report could actually add some impetus to Biden’s warnings that an aggressive government effort is needed to ensure the economy better meets the needs of the underprivileged. Biden is asking Congress to spend tens of billions of dollars, for example, on free child care and home health care for sick and elderly Americans who can help their family members, who currently care for them, return to the workforce.

“The number one reason people don’t go back to work right now is what you said, fear, or they can’t find childcare or schools are still closed,” Raimondo said on CBS Sunday.

The jobs report was one of the few times in his first months in office that Biden has suffered setbacks with polls showing a majority of Americans favor his handling of the pandemic. Republicans have sought political advantage in another similar issue: an excessively high number of undocumented migrant children crossing the United States border with Mexico.

It is unclear if a single employment report has the ability to alter the delicate political dynamics facing the president. You may get some political isolation from the fact that 54% of Americans in the latest CNN / SSRS poll consider the state of the economy to be good. That number has risen significantly from 43% three months ago and much higher than it was under Trump in May 2020.

Still, the dynamics of power in Washington, with tiny Democratic majorities in the Senate and House, means that a prolonged slowdown in job growth could make it harder for the president to get moderate Democrats like West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, please support his expansive agenda.

And Biden’s multi-trillion dollar gamble could end up leaving him politically exposed unless the economy performs in the run-up to next year’s midterm elections, when the party leaving the White House almost always wins. seats after a change in administration.

A strong economy is one way Biden can buck that trend, though it remains to be seen whether pocket problems, even in a good environment, will outweigh the cultural arguments Trump used to win his bond with grassroots conservative voters.

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