On Monday, which happened to be Labor Day – a holiday meant to honor the American worker – the federal pandemic unemployment benefits ended. According to calculations from the progressive think tank The Century Foundation (TCF), an estimated 7.5 million people may be affected, while another 2.1 million unemployed individuals may lose the $300 per week federal supplement. TCF has called it the largest cut-off of unemployment benefits in history.
As news circulated that as a result millions of individuals, who had counted on the money to make ends meet, may be left with no safety net, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) offered a suggestion on social media.
Taking to Twitter via his official verified account (@tedcruz), the lawmaker responded to a news report, writing, “Um, get a job? There are millions of vacancies, and small businesses across the Nation are desperate for workers.”
By Wednesday afternoon, Cruz was retweeted more than 3,400 times and quoted some 1,500 times. The topic “Get a Job” was trending on Tuesday with nearly 50,000 tweets. And not surprisingly many were quite critical of Cruz.
“If only there was some kind of job that paid $174k to tweet and fly to Cancun when your state was in crisis,” wrote @MyDearAuntSally, while @sudospective responded, “Hey, Ted, you wanna work at McDonald’s for $11 while customers throw soft drinks at you and supervisors tell you that you won’t get a raise until you go above the line of duty, when you literally carry the whole store on your back, DESPITE your knowledge in programming? No?”
Some also responded that the answer for better pay and working conditions is for those unemployed not to return to work.
“Get a job? Don’t do it (just yet). The longer people defy the labor market the more companies have to raise wages to compete. Wages have been stagnant since the 70’s (compared to inflation.) This period of wage inflation is long overdue,” noted @wisetrashpanda.
Others didn’t exactly agree with Cruz, but noted that the number of job openings also remains a serious issue.
“If this continues and people don’t fill millions of existing job opening, most companies and businesses will push for faster automation and use of software to replace labor force…. few years down the road we can have a permanent unemployment problem,” wrote @fairness2all.
Many others shared Cruz’s sentiment that it was time for those who have been collecting unemployment to look for work.
“To all the Americans who are losing their unemployment benefits this week, GET A JOB, there are 10 million of them out there!,” wrote conservative author Brigitte Gabriel (@ACTBrigitte).
Blaze TV political commentator Sara Gonzales (@SaraGonzalesTX) was even more direct, tweeting, “What if they – and I’m just spitballing here – get off their lazy asses and get a job?”
Clearly this is another wedge issue in America; one that will do little to bring people together. It is clear from the commentary on social media that neither side sees the problem quite the same way.
“There is a mixture of motives of why people didn’t return to work,” said Maurice “Mo” Cayer, Ph.D., faculty in the graduate programs at the Psychology and Management Departments at the University of New Haven.
“When some people did their cognitive calculus they clearly found that it they could stay home, relax, exercise and enjoy time away from working and make maybe $300 less than if they went to work,” Cayer explained. “They took the ‘I think I’ll wait it out’ attitude.”
For others, the issue was different, and they counted on the extra money and couldn’t find work. Yet, with so many openings, now is very much the time to heed the advice and possibly look for work at the very least said Cayer.
“What we could see is akin to ‘musical chairs,’ as there are 10 million jobs out there, and some people may pounce and find that seat, while others will certainly be left without a job in the coming weeks or months,” he added. “There may be fewer openings in the next month or two, so I’d advise those on the sidelines to take advantage of the situation. First, I’d say pounce on any job openings, and then look for a sign up bonus. If possible negotiate for better working conditions, which could include choosing shifts and working hours, or even getting tuition reimbursement so you can work towards better things.”
The responses on social media also once again serve as a mirror to the divide in the nation.
“That does seem to be the case,” said Cayer. “Some politicians have tried to dismiss the fact that enhanced benefits allowed people to sit on the sidelines during the pandemic, but no amount of dismissing it will make it true. But there were also those who think it was only the benefits for why people didn’t pounce on every job. It is still about finding a job where someone can feel safe and productive. No one wants to take a job where you might get Covid just for showing up.”
As with other issues that divide us, social media has certainly served to amplify the anger and hostility on both sides.