The pandemic has had its share of long-term side effects. A depleted workforce is one of them.
But discovering the cure is often as difficult as facing the ailment itself: How do small businesses that have been wounded by shutdown policies get back on their feet? How do business owners incentivize the unemployed to return to work?
President Joe Biden seems to think the solution is as simple as offering a $15/hour minimum wage, but he’s wrong once again.
Biden appeared at a CNN town hall hosted at Mount St. Joseph University in Cincinnati on Wednesday night, during which restaurant owner John Lanni came forward.
CNN’s Don Lemon, who moderated the town hall event, introduced Lanni to Biden.
“This is John Lanni. He is the owner and co-founder of a restaurant group with 39 restaurants across the country, Mr. President. He is a Republican,” he said, according to the official White House transcript of the event.
Lanni greeted Biden and thanked him for taking his question before diving in.
“We employ hundreds of hard-working team members throughout the state of Ohio and across the country. And we’re looking to hire more every day as we try to restart our restaurant business,” he said.
“The entire industry, amongst other industries, continue to struggle to find employees. How do you and the Biden administration plan to incentivize those that haven’t returned to work yet? Hiring is our top priority right now.”
“Well, two things. One, if you noticed, we kept you open,” Biden responded. “We spent billions of dollars to make sure restaurants could stay open. And a lot of people who now — who worked as waiters and waitresses decided that they don’t want to do that anymore because there’s other opportunities and higher wages, because there’s a lot of openings now in jobs. And people are beginning to move.”
Biden elaborated further a few moments later, saying, “I think it really is a matter of people deciding now that they have opportunities to do other things. And there is a shortage of employees. People are looking to make more money and to bargain. And so I think your business and the tourist business is really going to be in a — in a bind for a little while. And one of the things — we’re ending all those things that are the things keeping people back from going back to work, et cetera.”
Joe Biden tells a small business owner that his industry is “really going to be in a bind for a little while,” and goes on to say that if he wants to hire workers, he’ll just have to pay a $15/hr minimum wage: pic.twitter.com/d2uoDsLaVo
— Townhall.com (@townhallcom) July 22, 2021
Then he began to preach the enduring leftist demand for a $15/hour minimum wage.
“John, my guess is that people being $7, $8 an hour plus tips, that’s — I think, John, you’re going to be finding $15 bucks an hour or more now. You know what I mean? And — but you may pay that already. You may pay that already.”
Of course, incentivizing the jobless with supplemental state unemployment benefits and stimulus checks would have “little” to do with this overwhelming unwillingness to work — but, in their defense, the citizens didn’t ask for a pandemic-induced economic nosedive, yet the government delivered.
Lemon even asked Biden about expanded unemployment benefits:
“You mentioned something, you said, ‘We’re going to end the things that may be keeping people back.’ Do you think that’s the unemployment benefits expanded?”
Biden answered, saying, “Well, that was the argument it was. I don’t think it did much. But the point is, it’s argued that because the extended unemployment benefits kept people — they’d rather stay home and not work — than go to work. “
“You don’t think it hurt — did that?” Lemon asked.
“I see no evidence it had any serious impact on it. But you can argue — let’s assume it did. It’s coming to an end, so it’s not like we’re in a situation where — if that was it and it ends, then we’re going to see John is going to have no problem,” Biden answered, then delving back into his defense of a $15/hour minimum wage, saying that anyone making less than that amount for a 40-hour workweek falls “below the poverty level.”
But Biden’s jabs at the restaurant owner didn’t settle well with Republicans.
Ohio Republican Senate hopeful J.D. Vance said Biden’s “response is a joke,” according to The Daily Wire, and RNC Research accused Biden of “scold[ing] a struggling small business owner” on Twitter.
WATCH: Joe Biden scolds a struggling small business owner to pay more to find workers. pic.twitter.com/7XcAV5oUDX
— RNC Research (@RNCResearch) July 22, 2021
Regardless, it’s fair to assume the labor shortage dilemma is more complicated than the long-debated minimum wage scenario.
In fact, several restaurant chains have already increased wages to attract workers (and that ABC News report came in May).
We’re still facing the problem two months later — on a scale large enough to warrant a question to the president himself.
Another question to ask is: How are the people refusing to work sustaining themselves now? Is it the previously mentioned extended unemployment benefits? The dream for more government stimulus checks? (Yes, I’m well aware that these checks wouldn’t sustain anyone for long, but they were also money doled out by the government.)
The government used its monetary resources to pacify public disdain for its pandemic shutdown culture that greatly surpassed the “15 days to flatten the curve” narrative; but now it’s time the government owns its economic detriment and recognizes that the best source of financial support is self-sufficiency.
As Lemon noted, “Help wanted” signs are plastered everywhere — so, the responsibility for drawing employees back to work doesn’t fall solely on the employer.
The unemployed have to be willing.
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