The political left claims “fairness” as its issue du jour.
Considering Gov. Andy Beshear’s decision to dangle $1,500 between couch potatoes and their TVs to entice tens of thousands of Kentuckians remaining unemployed-by-choice to return to work as many of their fellow citizens have, one wonders if this darling of political progressives even supports “fairness,” at least in the economic realm.
How can such inducements be considered even remotely fair to those who put themselves on the front line and worked through the pandemic – something the left loves to praise with lip service but apparently not when it comes to economic policy?
It’s stunning to watch Beshear justify handouts to able-bodied unemployed freeloaders while completely ignoring the brave contribution made by health care and law enforcement heroes along with other “essential personnel” – another of the left’s favorite monikers – who persevered through his masks, mandates and political maneuverings.
Apparently, personnel are “essential” when fulfilling the left’s ideological goals but not when it comes to handing out the goodies.
Of course, you don’t see many hardworking Kentuckians in that line with their hands out because they understand such policies pose the danger of serving as a gateway to government dependency.
They get it, if only instinctually: unbalanced, knee-jerk responses like Beshear’s reactive rejoinder to the serious unemployment problem of paying those choosing to remain jobless to return to work after having paid them to stay home is harmful to the commonwealth’s economic ecosystem.
Rep. Thomas Huff in a Facebook post called Beshear's plan "disrespectful to those who worked through the pandemic."
Huff, R-Shepherdsville, admitted he was “frustrated” with the governor’s announcement, arguing “the solution for government-created problems is not more government,” and skewered the handouts as “nothing more than showboating and shameless pandering.”
But the economic grievance extends beyond Kentucky’s borders.
By financing his $1,500 giveaways with federal pandemic-relief money rather than state funds, Beshear doubtless believes he avoids annoying constitutional requirements limiting expenditures of taxpayer dollars to the legislature’s purview.
Yet what he cannot avoid is the unfairness of it all.
It doesn’t get much more wrong than forcing taxpayers in other states to send their hard-earned dollars to intentionally-jobless Kentuckians when many of those states have shut off the spigot of federal unemployment dollars for their own citizens; meanwhile, 100,000 jobs – many of which offer higher-than-average pay and one-time bonuses – remain unfilled in the commonwealth.
The unfairness magnifies considering Beshear’s offer adds up to more than just one-time $1,500 checks to jobless-by-choice Kentuckians.
As Dale Woods, president and general manager of WDRB Media, noted in his recent clarion editorial taking issue with Beshear’s policy, these jobless individuals already receive, on average, $350 in state benefits plus the $300 federal supplemental unemployment payment, totaling $2,600 per month or $16 per hour, to stay home.
Let’s say those individuals take the governor up on his offer.
“They will get $1,500, and they have to go to work for the first month,” Woods opines. “This means it’s an $1,100 monthly haircut – that is not an incentive to go to work.”
Instead, Woods offers the solution – “erase the $300” federal unemployment benefit since “the problem is not that we aren’t paying people enough money to go to work. It’s that we’re paying them too much to stay home.”
Beshear’s plan is even unfair to the individuals themselves in that it keeps them in a state of perpetual dependency, waiting by the mailbox or phones for that gubbuhment check or deposit to arrive.
Recharging Kentucky’s post-pandemic economy depends on hardworking independent-minded citizens shunning government dependency, getting off their couches and earning, enjoying and investing the fruits of their own labor, thus contributing to society rather than mooching off it.
Jim Waters is president and CEO of the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions, Kentucky’s free-market think tank. Read previous columns at www.bipps.org. He can be reached at email@example.com and @bipps on Twitter.