'Terrible economics': These states are declining federal unemployment funds. Experts say that's 'a huge mistake'

Residents in South Carolina and Montana next month will lose access to federal unemployment benefits over what those states' Republican governors call a "severe workforce shortage." Experts say the move by Montana's Gov. Greg Gianforte and South Carolina's Gov. Henry McMaster is a "huge mistake."

As ABC News reports, South Carolina and Montana are the first states "to end participation in the unemployment enhancement programs." That program offered U.S. workers access to extra unemployment funds as part of the American Rescue Plan signed by President Joe Biden in March.

In an effort to incentivize Montanans, Gianforte is offering a one-time "'return-to-work bonus' of $1,200 will be paid to people who rejoin the labor force and maintain employment for at least one month," according to ABC News. That money will also come from the federally-funded American Rescue Plan.

But Economy Policy Institute senior economist Heidi Shierholz says McMaster and Gianforte are making "a huge mistake."

"The idea that states are just going to forego that and allow all that money to be sucked out of their economy is just terrible economics," Shierholz told ABC News. "I just deeply hope that you don't see more states following this path because it's a huge mistake."

Shierholz said the narrative of a "severe workforce shortage" driven by increased unemployment benefits is based on a false premise. Currently, federal unemployment benefits offer laid-off workers an additional $300 per week, down from $600 at the end of last of July. According to Shierholz, if money was the motivator, that decrease from $600 to $300 would have made a marked difference in the unemployment rate last year.

"You should have seen a bump up in employment, and you can't see that in the data so it just points to that it wasn't really causing the labor supply effect," Shierholz said. "It's just difficult to imagine that something half that big is having any effect now."

And Shierholz is far from the only expert who warns that hiring issues in South Carolina and Montana won't be solved by depriving residents of enhanced unemployment benefits.

ABC News reports:

William E. Spriggs, an economist and professor at Howard University, said in an interview with ABC News that there is no data to prove that unemployment checks are preventing Americans from returning to work. "There's no job shortage, in terms of workers. There's a wage shortage," said Spriggs, adding that research shows many employers "want to pay rotten wages and have rotten hours."

Last week, the Washington Post published an analysis that likewise dispelled the framing of a "worker shortage" based on enhanced unemployment. "At the most basic level, people are still hesitant to return to work until they are fully vaccinated and their children are back in school and daycare full-time," the Post analysis declares.

Many Americans, the Post reports, are "re-assessing what they want to do and how they want to work, whether in an office, at home or some hybrid combination."

Still, McMaster and Gianforte are blazing ahead with plans to reopen their respective economies by depriving citizens (and their states) of extra funding during the worst public health crisis in a century. As ABC News reports, experts say "declining to take federal money is going to have a deep effect on the living standards of residents and their families, and likely will worsen those states' overall economies."

But for all the hand wringing about disincentivized workers by those states' Republican governors, Shierholz said the bottom line is "employers are just angry that they are unable to find workers at relatively low wages."

"The jobs being posted are more stressful, more risky, harder jobs than they were pre-COVID," she added. " ... When the job is more stressful, then it should command a higher wage."

Update Sun. May 9 | 9:25 AM EST —

WMC Action News reports that Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Friday also "ordered the state's Division of Workforce Services to end Arkansas' participation in federal pandemic unemployment programs." That order goes into effect on June 26; the federal unemployment benefit program will run until September.

'Mind-numbingly reckless and irresponsible': Maricopa County sheriff blasts Arizona Senate's audit demand

Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone on Friday slammed the "Senate Republican Caucus' audit of the Maricopa County votes" for "[jeopardizing] the entire mission of the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office," the Arizona Republic reports.

"The Senate Republican Caucus' audit of the Maricopa County votes from last November's election has no stopping point," Penzone said in a statement. "Now, its most recent demands jeopardize the entire mission of the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office."

Penzone's criticism comes after Maricopa County failed to provide "certain routers that the state Senate sought in its original subpoenas" of 2020 election material. According to the Arizona Republic, "the county has provided all 2.1 million voter general election ballots, voter information and election equipment in response to state Senate subpoenas," but is warning of a "significant security risk to Sheriff's Office law enforcement data" if the routers are released.

Ken Bennett, who is serving "as a liaison between the Senate and the private contractors overseeing the audit," said auditors want access to the routers because "people that have always suspected something nefarious about elections being connected to the internet."

The Senate is also demanding "passwords to the county's ballot tabulators used on Election Day at voting centers." Bennett said auditors need the passwords so they have "administrative access to voting machines," according to the Arizona Republic.

But County Attorney Allister Adel, in a letter to Bennett, said no such passwords exist. "The county has provided every password, user name and security key in its custody or control, as commanded by the Senate's subpoenas, and does not have any others," Adel told Bennett.

As for the routers, Sheriff Penzone in his statement said "access to this information would adversely affect the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office ability to protect critical evidence, data shared between law enforcement agencies, protected private information and individual passwords, all of which could be used to the detriment of citizens and law enforcement infrastructure."

Such a move "puts sensitive, confidential data belonging to Maricopa County's citizens — including social security numbers and protected health information — at risk as well," Adel wrote in that letter to Bennett.

Republican Supervisors Chairman Jack Sellers likewise said releasing the routers would "cripple County operations and cost as much as $6 million."

Penzone also suggested the Senate is misrepresenting tropes of "transparency and accountability" in an effort to secure the routers.

Per the Arizona Republic:

The sheriff said transparency and accountability are democracy's foundation. "But when these words are misrepresented, it defies the fragile balance that exists between freedom and order and all that we believe in."

'You voted against it' trends as GOP tries to take credit for 'bipartisan relief bill' passed by Dems only

Some Republican members of the House and Senate are trying to take credit for elements of the American Rescue Act after refusing to support the bill, prompting social media users to remind them: "YOU VOTED AGAINST IT!"

That phrase trended on Twitter Sunday after at least four Republican congresspeople tried to convince their constituents they played a role in the broadly-backed $1.9 trillion stimulus package. President Joe Biden signed the bill into law on Thursday. No Republican in either the House or Senate supported the bill.

On Friday, Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar (R-FL) took to Twitter to "announce that the Biden Administration has just implemented my bipartisan COVID relief bill." Despite insisting she was "proud" that her "bipartisan legislation has officially become SBA policy," Salazar failed to mention that she, herself, voted against the bill.

Here are some reactions to Salazar's post:





Salazar isn't alone. As previously reported by AlterNet, Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) on Wednesday

tweeted his approval for a provision in the bill that grants $28.6 billion to independent restaurant operators — despite voting against the legislation. That tweet immediately garnered criticism from social media users:







Another Republican catching flak for her comments on the popular legislation is Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO), who called the stimulus checks "money that you and your fellow countrymen already paid into the system" (duh).


We honestly aren't going to waste time talking about Boebert, save a series of reactions that really hone in on how disingenuous her tweet was:





And finally, we have Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), who released a statement accompanying his "no" vote that can only be described as walking a tightrope:

"Today, I'm glad to know my constituents will be receiving an additional relief payment and funding to help improve their access to vaccines, PPE, and unemployment insurance.



I fully support getting assistance to Americans to help keep food on their tables and to help those who are struggling. I fully support continued funding for emergency essentials like vaccines, COVID testing, PPE, school reopening resources, unemployment insurance, and research. And I'll continue to work with my colleagues in the House to ensure the American people have what they need to fight through this pandemic."

Unsurprisingly, Kinzinger's statement didn't go over well:







So there you have it, folks. Republicans are trying to take credit for a bill not a single one of them voted for, while simultaneous r ailing against provisions that were also included in former President Donald Trump's bills, which they did vote for. It's almost like these people don't actually care about helping us!

GOP reeling after historic defeat: ‘Political disaster doesn’t begin to describe how bad this is for Republicans’

A new report from Roll Call details some of the many challenges facing the Republican Party as it looks to an uncertain future following former President Donald Trump's electoral defeat.

As the party turns its focus to the 2022 midterms, it remains "divided over Trump, their midterm prospects and the state of the GOP itself," Roll Call's Bridget Bowman, Kate Ackley, and Stephanie Akin report.

While some, like Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL), insist the Republican Party is "very unified" when compared with their Democratic counterparts, the reality is that many in the GOP, including Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), are bracing for primary challenges. Some McConnell allies told Roll Call they're anticipating "'a large-scale campaign' to block far-right candidates in primaries."

Trump has already made it clear that he intends to "primary the hell" out of any Republicans who didn't back the president's effort to overturn the election.

"Political disaster doesn't begin to describe how bad this is for Republicans," GOP consultant Alex Conant said.

"The 2022 primaries are going to be where those tensions get tested," former Pennsylvania GOP Rep. Ryan A. Costello told Roll Call.

And former National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) head Rep. Thomas M. Davis III likewise cautioned the party against allowing Trump to maintain control even after it suffered crippling defeat in under his leadership.

"The more Trump hangs around, the intensity, as we saw in Georgia, stays with Democrats," Davis said.

While some new Republican House members have made their allegiance to Trump known, others are taking a different approach to attract voters in the party. One such congresswoman is Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC), who told "Meet the Press" on Sunday that she wants "to be a new voice for the Republican Party."

"That's one of the reasons I've spoken out so strongly against the president, against these QAnon conspiracy theorists that led us in a constitutional crisis," Mace said.

But Mace's goal of uniting a party that rejects the very same conspiracy and cynicism Trump embraced (loudly) over the past 5 years may be far-fetched, at best. As GOP consultant Mike DuHaime told Roll Call, "if the party behaves like it has in the last two months, we shouldn't count on any success."

PA officials demand Rep. Scott Perry resign over report he played part in Trump scheme to replace AG

The New York Times on Saturday singled out Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA) as a member of Congress who "played a significant role" in former President Donald Trump's efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election — and now, lawmakers in Perry's state are calling for the congressman's resignation.

According to the Times, while Perry was hardly a main character in the president's unsuccessful attempt to usurp President Joe Biden's electoral victory, he played an integral role in Trump's plan to fire acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen. Trump was hoping to replace Rosen, "who stood by the results of the election and had repeatedly resisted the president's efforts to undo them."

Perry introduced Trump to Jeffrey Clark, a Justice Department official who "was sympathetic to Mr. Trump's view that the election had been stolen," the Times reports.

Per the Times:

"As the date for Congress to affirm Mr. Biden's victory neared, Mr. Perry and Mr. Clark discussed a plan to have the Justice Department send a letter to Georgia state lawmakers informing them of an investigation into voter fraud that could invalidate the state's Electoral College results."

According to the Times, the former president "backed down" on his plan to fire Rosen and install Clark "only after top department officials threatened to resign en masse."

As the York Daily Record reports, Perry also "led a House floor objection to Pennsylvania's election results" when Congress met to certify the Electoral College votes. That meeting was interrupted by a mob of angry Trump supporters after the president held a rally and promised to "fight like hell" for the presidency.

Following the publication of the report, officials in Pennsylvania on Saturday called for Perry's resignation. One such official was Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta (D-PA), who offered this succinct message for his Republican colleague.



And Josh Shapiro, the Pennsylvania attorney general, insisted there "must be consequences" for Perry's actions.



Eugenio DePasquale, who lost out to Perry in 2020's 10th Congressional District election, likewise demanded the representative's resignation, tweeting "Perry must go!"


Perry has not commented on the New York Times report.

'Like being a hostage negotiator': How Trump’s handlers finally got him to sign the COVID relief bill

A new report from Axios describes the negotiations between President Donald Trump, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, as Mnuchin and McCarthy tried to get Trump to sign the COVID relief and government spending bill that had stalled at the president's desk for days.

Axios' Mike Allen writes that negotiating with "a cranky, stubborn President Trump" was "like being a hostage negotiator, or defusing a bomb."

In a video posted to Twitter last Tuesday, the president put the fate of the stimulus and government spending bill at risk when he called on Congress to raise the $600 checks to $2,000. In that video, the president described the proposed payments as "ridiculously low."

Shortly after posting the video, Trump flew to his private Florida club, Mar-a-Lago. The bill, passed by the House and Senate and awaiting the president's signature, followed suit:

Sunday, hours before Trump changed his mind and signed the bill, unemployment benefits for millions of Americans ran out.

According to Axios, in the intervening days between Trump's Twitter video and his ultimate decision to sign the package, Trump insiders — including Mnuchin, McCarthy and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) — "indulged the president's rants, told him there was great stuff in the bill, and gave him 'wins' he could announce, even though they didn't change the bil

Appealing to his "vanity," Allen reports that the president's confidantes finally convinced him "that he had gotten all there was to get" from the bill negotiations.

As Allen reports, the about-face comes too little too late for millions of Americans. And it may have ultimately cost the Republican Party two wins in the upcoming Georgia Senate runoff election.

"It may be too late," Republican pollster Frank Luntz told Axios, "Too late for him, too late for the economy, too late for Covid, and too late for the Georgia senators."

Megachurch pastor who served as Trump evangelical advisor diagnosed with COVID after attending White House party

Pastor Jentezen Franklin, the senior pastor at Georgia megachurch Free Chapel, tested positive for COVID-19 after attending a White House Christmas party with his daughter earlier this month, the Charlotte Observer reports. Free Chapel spokesperson Tracy Page told McClatchy News that Franklin was "exposed to an associate of the congregation" on Thursday who was infected. The spokesperson said the pastor "is self isolating and abiding by all relevant CDC guidelines."

In a statement, the Gainesville-based Free Chapel — which Charlotte Observer reports has "seven campuses in three states" and resumed in-person services in September — said it will move the church's candlelight service online "due to the rise in COVID-19 cases in our area." The church said the decision was made "out of an abundance of caution."

Per the Charlotte Observer:

"Franklin also attended the September nomination ceremony for Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett at the White House Rose Garden ceremony, which was later identified as a superspreader event after several people in President Donald Trump's administration, including the president and first lady Melania Trump, tested positive for the coronavirus. Franklin tested negative following the ceremony, WQAD reports.

He has been an ally of the president's and has served as an evangelical adviser to him. He spoke at the Trump campaign's event "Evangelicals for Trump: Praise, Prayer, and Patriotism" in Atlanta in July."

Fox News airs point-by-point fact check of wild election fraud claims during 3 of network's most pro-Trump shows

Fox News this weekend is airing a stunning point-by-point fact check to claims made on programs hosted by the network's most pro-Trump voices after voting technology company Smartmatic send a 20-page legal letter demanding "a full and complete retraction of all false and defamatory statements and reports."

The segment, which features an interview with Palo Open Source Election Technology Institute voting technology expert Eddie Perez, aired on Lou Dobb's Friday show and Jeanine Pirro's Saturday show. Sunday Morning Futures with Maria Bartiromo will also show the segment.

In its Dec. 10 letter to Fox News Media, Smartmatic charged the company and its hosts with waging "a concerted disinformation campaign against Smartmatic. Fox News told its millions of viewers and readers that Smartmatic was founded by [the late Venezuelan President] Hugo Chávez, that its software was designed to fix elections, and that Smartmatic conspired with others to defraud the American people and fix the 2020 U.S. election by changing, inflating, and deleting votes." The company also demanded the company "match the attention and audience targeted with the original defamatory publications."

As the Washington Post reports:

"During Friday night's fact-checking segment, the questioner asked Perez: 'Have you seen any evidence of Smartmatic sending U.S. votes to be tabulated in foreign countries?'

This appeared to be a reference to Giuliani's Nov. 12 claim on the show that with Smartmatic software, 'the votes actually go to Barcelona, Spain.' Perez responded, 'No, I'm not aware of any evidence that Smartmatic is sending U.S. votes to be tabulated in foreign countries.'"

Speaking with CNN, Perez said that while he was unaware of the nature of the interview when he spoke to Fox News about Smartmatic, it's important to clear up any confusion the network's viewers have about voting integrity in the United States.

"I felt it was important to talk to Fox News," Perez said. "Of anything potentially more important to be speaking the facts to their audience because there are a lot of consumers of Fox News that have doubts about the election."

Watch the video below:


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