Biden's $1.9 Trillion 'Rescue Plan' Isn't Saving the Economy. It's Holding It Back.

The economic aid package paid people not to work. So it's no surprise that many aren't working.


President Joe Biden's case for the American Rescue Plan (ARP) was simple: Americans needed economic relief, and they needed it fast. Government spending—in the form of $1.9 trillion worth of deficit-financed programs and checks—was necessary to kick the economy into high gear. "Big, bold action" would "change the course of the pandemic and begin economic recovery." The real risk wasn't in doing too much. It was in doing too little. 

As it turns out, however, there were risks in going big—risks that were both predictable and predicted. And now, even as the pandemic shrinks from view, those risks are turning into very real threats to the recovery. Instead of kick-starting the economy as promised, Biden's Rescue Plan is holding it back.

The most obvious way in which the ARP is holding back the recovery is through boosted federal unemployment benefits. The recovery legislation extended a $300-per-week bonus payment through September. Because that $300 bonus comes on top of state-based unemployment insurance, which varies by state but on average runs a little over $300, a typical beneficiary now gets the equivalent of more than $15 an hour to stay home, which is more than many would earn at work. For many, then, the straightforward economic incentive is to avoid work and collect checks instead. 

It's not that there aren't jobs available. On the contrary, right now there are more job openings than there were prior to the pandemic in 2020. Indeed, according to a report this week from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 8.1 million job openings at the end of March, the highest number ever recorded. America is awash in demand for labor. What it lacks are willing workers. 

There is a school of thought on the left that sees these numbers and shrugs. Some research has found that an even larger federal unemployment insurance bonus last year didn't reduce employment. But that research was conducted in the early days of the pandemic when firms were shedding jobs and employment opportunities were unusually scarce. It also found that the bonus payments reduced the intensity with which job-seekers looked for new work. 

Which almost certainly helps explain why this month's jobs report was the biggest miss in decades: Given the intense demand for workers, the expectation was that the jobs report would show more than a million new jobs. Instead, the figure was a mere 266,000; job gains from the previous month, meanwhile, were revised downward. 

Biden's recovery plan paid people not to work. So it is hardly surprising that they are now not working. And depending on how long this persists, some of those jobs may simply not come back, leaving employers, consumers, and workers worse off.  

It's not that this effect was unusually difficult to predict: Back in February, as the ARP was being put together, Michael R. Strain, a right-of-center labor economist at the American Enterprise Institute, warned in congressional testimony that an extended, expanded unemployment supplement "would [prolong] the period of labor market weakness by incentivizing unemployed workers to remain unemployed."  

"Many major components of the plan," he said, "are either unnecessary or would hold the recovery back." 

This is not a matter of strict partisan opinion. Some more sober left-leaning economists also see the stimulus as having negative labor market effects. For example, Jason Furman, who chaired President Barack Obama's Council of Economic Advisers, cautioned this week that the unemployment bonus was likely slowing job growth. 

"If I were in a state with a 3.5% unemployment rate," he told Bloomberg, "I'd be thinking seriously about whether paying people more to not work than to work was a good thing to continue doing." And he criticized the total size of the ARP this week as unnecessarily large. "It's definitely too big for the moment," he said. "I don't know any economist that was recommending something the size of what was done."

And yet congressional Democrats and Biden collaborated to pass something that was, even at the time, obviously wasteful, irrelevant to the crisis, and likely to hold back the recovery. 

And there may be further consequences yet: Inflation is ticking up, with consumer prices growing at a faster rate than they have in a decade. Some of this may just be temporary noise from time-limited events, like a computer chip shortage making it harder to manufacture cars. But as Strain notes in a new column, "Any period of sustained inflation is likely to begin with aberrant economic phenomena." Before the dinosaur arrives, you see ripples in the water glass. 

Yet Biden doesn't seem remotely interested in changing course, and neither do his Democratic allies in Congress. He and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi used the release of the underwhelming jobs report to argue that the Rescue Plan was working—and to make the case for doubling down on its approach. 

Biden has already proposed an additional $4 trillion in federal spending, above and beyond the $1.9 trillion in the Rescue Plan. Like the Rescue Plan, the two packages are larded up with preexisting Democratic priorities that have little to do with the pandemic or the recovery. But they would fund handouts to a number of Democratic constituencies, particularly labor unions. 

There is something more than a little bit unsavory about all of this. Biden championed giving four-figure checks to families with stable jobs and six-figure incomes as part of an economic "rescue" plan that is now stalling the economy in ways that could have negative long-term consequences for lower-wage workers. But that's not stopping Democrats from pushing ahead with more of the same. 

Reacting to last week's jobs report miss, Pelosi said, "The disappointing April jobs report highlights the urgent need to pass President Biden's American Jobs and Families Plans." Based on what Biden's economic rescue plan has done for the economy, I'm none too excited to see what his jobs and families plans do for jobs and families. 

NEXT: The CDC Director Misrepresented the Study She Cited To Justify Her Misleading Estimate of Outdoor COVID-19 Risk

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  1. It’s a good thing for businesses to complete with the government handouts that they paid for with taxes.
    Or so I’m told.

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    2. Over 90% of the people drawing unemployment 1 year ago have returned to work. Claims have plummeted from 23 million weekly to less than 3.7 million. There are just 2 million more people drawing unemployment today than were drawing it in January 2020 — before the pandemic. If those 2 million are somehow crippling the US economy, we need a new and better economy.

      1. That’s a very poor analysis. You’re cherry picking. The fact is that the jobs report was dismal, and isn’t going to get much better, if at all. Plus a huge inflation surge has begun.

        Your friends are inflicting horrible suffering on us all. I know you’re too delusional to get that right now, but every delusion has a breaking point.

        I wonder how much it will take to shatter yours?

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  2. Isn’t this exactly what you wanted?

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    1. “risks that were both predictable and predicted.”

      Taken directly from a Ken post ripping the Reason staff that supported Biden.

  3. You gotta spend money to make money!
    Uncle Joe is leading the way to a brighter and more prosperous America.

    1. Or as Joe would say ‘ You have to break an omelet to make money”.

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  4. I’ve been saying this since all of these relief efforts began. They are going to get a $15 minimum wage by hook or by crook. And once that’s the de facto starting wage is over $15 dollars because the government is paying everyone that much to sit on their asses (plus health care, plus no commute, plus no responsibility, plus no child care, etc.) making it the de jure minimum wage will be simple.

    “Look, businesses already have to pay it to attract workers. Why not just codify it into law so that no evil business can ever take those hard-fought gains back from the oppressed workers?”

    1. What a stupid damn comment. The government is not paying “everyone” to sit on their asses. Weekly unemployment claims have dropped from 23 million last May to less than 4 million this May. In fact, the current number of people drawing unemployment is very close to the average number for the 21st Century thus far.


      1. My interpretation of that data is that it only includes people drawing regular state unemployment. Per the DOL (which provides the data to FRED), we had 7.3 and 5.3 million people on two different pandemic unemployment programs:

  5. Simple question for basement bunker Biden’s simple mind; why do we need another payout when the first hasn’t been spent yet?

    1. Why do you need a paycheck next month if you haven’t spent all of this month’s yet? Let’s tell your employer you don’t need a paycheck next month.

      1. This was a $2 trillion spending package with the bulk of the money neither spent this year, nor for KungFlu related relief of any kind. There was still unspent money from the previous ‘emergency package’. So why did we need $2 trillion right now, or at all?

      2. “Why do you need a paycheck next month if you haven’t spent all of this month’s yet? Let’s tell your employer you don’t need a paycheck next month.”

        This isn’t money someone earned; it’s money taken from the taxpayers at gun-point; something lefty shits tend to ignore.

      3. My employer has a plan to bring in enough money to cover my future paychecks, or else I’d be getting a pink slip instead.

        Adding another order of magnitude to the Fed’s balance sheet (which is now up something like 13x since 2008) and thinking that it’s not going to precipitate huge inflation at some point in the future is flat-out insanity. Although, since progs like Yellen claim to believe that at some point, they can create enough inflation that it’ll somehow stop driving inequality and become good for poor people, maybe they want to create the kind of conditions in the USA which led to the actual Hitler (and not just someone their supporters will call that just for thinking differently than themselves) rising to power in Germany.

  6. >>The economic aid package paid people not to work.

    now do Welfare. and stop acting surprised

  7. “The economic aid package paid people not to work.”

    Well, the people not working are probably the kind of employees that’s benefactor Charles Koch wouldn’t want to hire anyway. You know the type — born in the US, no criminal record, expect a decent wage, etc.

    Who needs them when the Biden Administration has opened the borders to import far more cost-effective labor. Especially from Mexico.


  8. When you’re 28 trillion in debt, all you need to set things on the right track is another 2 trillion debt.

    1. The debt clock is basically a computer so if we overflow the national debt we will eventually reset it to $0.

      1. The debt clock is being synchronized to the doomsday clock.

  9. —in the form of $1.9 trillion worth of deficit-financed programs and checks tequila and strippers

    Won’t someone please think of the fuckups?

    1. Go big or go home. Magic mushrooms and hookers are the way to party!

  10. I mean, I’d rather focus on the people rather than on “the economy” which is only ever what the stockmarket is doing or unemployment numbers which doesn’t at all take into account *what* jobs are being taken. The “economy” isn’t and won’t ever be about what is good for the everyday man. At best it’s ancillary, certainly not primary.

    And I find it hilarious all these companies are bitching about people not working- free market mofos. Pay up or shut up.

    1. The economy is people. And having a functional economy is good for the everyday person – it’s what lets him have food to eat, a house over her head, and luxuries like hot water, all without knowing how any of those things get provided. A society can’t consume more than it produces.

      Pay up or shut up? You’re going to love the rampant inflation. You can’t jack wages up without increasing prices. Wages just represent the value produced – the only way to get real wage increases is to increase the value of production. Government meddling doesn’t do that.

      1. You’re not entitled to forced labor. People don’t want to go back to shitty employers, shocking.

        1. Wow… the idiocy of the left is a thing to behold.

          Nobody forces people to work for a certain employer.

          1. Wow, it’s delusional guy here to talk about his feelings. I’m assuming you’ve never been in the real world. I tend to ignore the foaming violent ones here, but your talking point is lame and has no basis in reality

            1. You’re the only one arguing from feelings.

              What talking point? Reality? Who is forcing you to work for a specific employer?

            2. You’re stupid, ignorant, and nasty. You also beclown yourself with your idiotic comments.

          2. Nobody forces people to work for a certain employer. Yes, that’s right, as proved by the remaining people still drawing unemployment. It’s called freedom.

            1. That isn’t freedom.

              You are obviously a very stupid person. So of course you’re a leftist.

              1. Given the very specific disinformation he’s been pimping regarding unemployment claims and payouts I’d say his appearance in this very thread is not a coincidence.

                1. Indeed.

            2. “…Yes, that’s right, as proved by the remaining people still drawing unemployment. It’s called freedom…”

              “Freedom” to take others’ money at gun-point? Lefty shits are more than happy with robbery if it’s done by the government.

              1. So sad

        2. I thought you died, Hihn?

          1. It’s not Hihn. It’s a De Oppresso Loser sock.

            1. Is this one a pretend green beret too?

        3. Nobody is proposing forced labor. If the natural market clearing wage was too high for those companies, well…creative destruction. Sorry.

          However, what is actually happening is that the government is forcing me to pay (well…since it is deficit financed, will force me to to pay) able bodied people to sit at home. Which will stop in September. So, we are paying enormous amounts of money for the economy to creative destruct its way to needing less unskilled labor, and then after a few months, we are going to dump millions of people onto a job market that doesn’t need them anymore. That appears to be poor policy.

          1. That depends on the purpose of the policy. If it’s to enlarge the permanent underclass that depends on Democrats for their welfare, mission accomplished.

        4. True. Which is why I’m likely going to retire soon rather than continue paying taxes.

    2. free market mofos

      It’s not a free market when government has its thumb on the scale, shitlunches.

      1. Your excuses are your own. But hey, keep crying cause an employee has a advantage in the job market.

        1. No they don’t, they are being paid to stay out of the job market.

          You are really ignorant to economics.

          1. You are really ignorant to economics and facts. The number of people drawing unemployment has dropped from 23 million last May to 3.6 million this May. As usual, you made a dumb comment. No surprise there.

            1. Nope.

              1. Nope, as in you’re wrong and Jesse is right.

    3. >> “And I find it hilarious all these companies are bitching about people not working- free market mofos. Pay up or shut up.”

      And here I thought you couldn’t get any dumber…. but alas you proved me wrong. It isn’t a free market when the government is giving out other people’s money at a greater rate than entry level jobs.

      Of course no sane person would say “yea let me flip burgers instead of sitting at home playing Xbox/PS and making more to do nothing”.

      If only someone could have foreseen that paying people more more in unemployement when there wasn’t a job shortage was a bad idea….oh yea, basically anyone without a (D) after their name was saying this.

      1. What an ignorant comment!! Are you trying to tie JesseAZ for dumbest commenter on Reason? How many people drawing unemployment are actually making more than when they worked? You don’t fucking know, do you? But you still felt qualified to type in your asinine comment.

        1. Or you could stop with ad hominem attacks and actually back up your position.

          The average person on unemployment bring $378/week. Add the $300 extra the fed throw in and that’s $678/week. Multiply by 52 weeks, complex math I know, and anyone who made less than $35,000 now makes more in unemployment. To help you out, if your previous job paid less than $16.95/hour and you worked 40 hours a week you definitely make more money now sitting at home on your ass collecting a government check than being a productive member of society.

          Go back to suckling the teat of your government overlords.

          1. And a lot of those people do some side work under the table with all that free time. Effectively letting them double dip.

            It’s also a great supplement for al those antifa rioters and looters too.

  11. They tell me 80 million people voted for Biden so this is exactly what they want.

  12. Man this Biden guy isn’t working out for the liberaltarians so much. If only there had a been a candidate not doing some of this shit who wasn’t on twitter so much and made people cry.

    1. How would that counter all the phony ballots and other democrat voter fraud?

      1. Silence over Ashli Babbitt

        Silence of the Maricopa audit.

        It’s all too predictable isn’t it?

  13. So wait a couple months. Anyone planning on retiring on emergency unemployment checks is going to find themselves back on the market in no time.

    A pandemic throws a big wrench into your cultural assumptions, doesn’t it? You’re mad that people are seeing that government can help them rather than just hurt them, so you’re afraid that they won’t be buying what you’re selling, no matter how much cash is in their pocket.

    The problem is a pandemic is nobody’s fault. So not only are you exposed as moral scolds who want to force people to labor for peanuts for 50 years for the benefit of the Koch brother; you are exposed as extremely unfair and tyrannical moral scolds who are blaming people for problems they couldn’t possibly have caused.

    If there is a large pool of unemployed and a lot of demand for workers, that sounds like the time wages offered should go up. Why am I the only one who simply thinks the market should work as intended?

    1. Cause markets competing against the government isn’t a free market so the rules don’t apply.

      It’s the reason there isn’t private flood insurance. Companies cannot compete and still earn a profit against a subsidized government program. Ergo, all Americans who don’t live in a flood zone, subsidize every owner who takes that risk.

      By your logic the “markets” should match any amount the government is willing to pay. Let’s say, for the sake of argument, the government decided to pay every American over the age of 18 $4,000 a month. Should McDonalds and other entry level jobs be forced to pay wages greater than $48,000/year to attract workers? Are you willing to pay $50 for a Big Mac??

      1. Of course you cannot have a private market without a government, and a government participates in that market (since it pays workers and buys goods and services too). So if you’re going to define optimal market outcomes as any transactions that happen in the absence of government influence, you’re talking about neighbors bartering eggs for flour and nothing else. Government creates the money too and gives it value.

        If government makes you spend money to have safe working conditions and serve non-poisonous food, it’s increasing your prices. If it has a minimum wage at all, it’s increasing your prices beyond a theoretical minimum. It’s just civilization. A government can get this wrong, require that wages be too high, and drive good businesses to extinction, but that’s not to say that it shouldn’t ever intervene in this way. It has no choice but to do so. And a modern government has every incentive to put a floor on wages. You can be sad about the sweatshops and shithole burger joints that will be unable to compete in that environment, or you can be happy that we have smart policy designed to encourage more efficient, advanced, and safe companies.

        1. Tony, you have no understanding of what you’re talking about. I could disparage you for that but the fact is your cognitive abilities are insufficient to grasp any of this. So that would be cruel. Essentially like yelling at a retard for being a retard.

          We really need to have whoever cares for you get you on a tighter leash. So you don’t stumble out on the internet to babble the way you do.

          1. All the bullshit you believe is not true simply because you can understand it. That’s not how truth works.

            But I’m interested in your thoughts on something else: which shade of brown does one’s skin have to fall on the spectrum that determines who lives and who dies in your camps?

            1. No, it’s simply true because they are actual facts and follow logic and historically proven patterns.

              You’re the one obsessed with race. Such distinctions are not relevant in my value system. Nor are death camps. Those are the exclusive province of the left.

  14. How many times are they going to keep repeating the same lies? It’s sickening. Here’s the truth:

    1. Weekly unemployment claims totaled 23.1 million on May 9, 2020.
    2. Weekly unemployment claims had DROPPED to 3.7 million on May 1, 2021.
    3. Nearly 20 million people have RETURNED TO WORK or stopped drawing benefits.
    4. The average claims preceding the pandemic was 1.7 million.
    5. There are just 2 million more people drawing unemployment now than there were in January 2020.
    6. The nation currently has 8.5 million job openings.
    7. Even if every one of the 2 million extra people drawing now went back to work tomorrow, there’d still be 6.5 million open jobs.
    8. The average unemployment benefit equals $14.60 per hour. With no health insurance or other benefits. No Social Security contribution for retirement. No 401K or other pension.

    Bottom line: This article is packed with lies. The relatively few people drawing unemployment are but a blip in an economy the size of the United State’s.

    1. You are only counting the folks drawing state unemployment checks. Those run out after 26 weeks of unemployment. That there aren’t very many people who started unemployment since December isn’t a huge shock. There are 4.2 million who have been unemployed for over 26 weeks. THAT is the problem.

    2. No it isn’t. You’re cherry-picking data to protect your senile master.

      1. I’m really starting to suspect that the purpose of these articles is to give propagandists the opportunity to spread lies.

        The writers here would just love to use that sort of stuff but know it would never fly.

        1. If only the numbers were good. But they’re not. I despise Biden, but I would much rather he prove me wrong and do a good job.

          Of course that isn’t happening, and it won’t. We are so screwed now.

    3. So you’re telling us that when the gov’t stepped in a shut down half the economy, unemployment levels spiked? About as surprising as the bottom of the sink getting we when the faucet is turned on.

      Since non-farm payroll levels are still 8 million jobs below what they were when the shutdowns started, and we’ve been through a year worth of expansion in the workforce (most Covid deaths were people past retirement age, and more than half were well past retirement), it stands to reason that probably half or more of the people who are no longer drawing unemployment didn’t go back to work (or maybe they’re doing under-the-table or gig-economy work); it’s possible that a million or two of them are in CA, where a lot of the busineses that were shut down are still closed after more than a year.

      If every one of the current job openings in the country were filled tomorrow, we’d barely be back to where we were before the government declared war on the private sector.

      A lot of the service/hospitality jobs that were shut down don’t pay $14.60/hr (except in deep-blue places where many of them are still shut down by the State), or include benefits. Even for the ones that do, the idea of working full time to net maybe $100-200/month more than Biden will pay you do not work isn’t an attractive offer, especially if your rent’s been suspended.

  15. Remember the good’ol days when taking money one didn’t **EARN** was considered STEALING?

  16. I realize libertarians spend all of their time hand-waving away vast portions of reality in order to have their “ideas,” but let’s admit that there was actually a pandemic during the pandemic layoffs. Government was not creating a distortion in the marketplace by providing unemployment money, it was keeping people with roofs over their heads and food in their children’s mouths while nature fucked them all out of a job.

    Stop saying you’re for so much freedom when your one big idea is to reduce the power of elected officials, the better for them to be co-opted by unelected corporate interests.

    Then, free citizen, we demand that you expose yourself to a deadly pathogen as you spend your entire waking life making money for someone else.

    Fuck y’all, it doesn’t have to work that way if we don’t want it to. Let’s divide up the resources that belong to the country we own, sufficient to provide every human with the ability to grow and prosper, not to mention feed and clothe themselves. Then we’ll see what the CEO of Dollar Tree wants to pay this new educated, demanding workforce so that he can continue running his plastic-shit empire. Because god forbid poor people become stay-at-home entrepreneurs too.

    We hate them for being poor and icky! No, we will not let them be anything else!

    1. So much stupid tied up in that comment. With none of it based on reality.

      1. We’re just apes, and nowhere in the book of nature is the word “cubicle” written.

        Just because you grew up in a certain culture doesn’t mean that culture is any more “real” than the culture of uncontacted Amazonians with their dicks out.

        In fact, among all the cultures ever invented, corporate culture is among the most ludicrous.

        But it’s better than any communist at selling the idea that slavery is the same as freedom.

        1. Shitstain posts bullshit, hopes someone finds it other than that.

    2. Pretending that the government’s response of forcibly closing half the economy wasn’t a chosen action and rather was simply “nature” seems like it’s desgined to hand-wave away a sizeable portion of reality.

      No person has power over the environment, but everyone has power over how they react to it. Closing millions of businesses was a choice made by people in multiple levels of government, not a natural consequence of a virus. Some of those people have even openly admitted that their choices were made in the interest of controlling people and not because there was any data indicating that certain choices were necessary (or even beneficial in any way).

      Running 90% negative coverage and promoting stories of outlier cases as if they were the norm was a choice made by people in the U.S. media, not a natural consequence of the virus. Creating a situation where more than half the people in the U.S. believed the risk of hospitalization from Covid to be 20-40 times higher than it actually is was a choice made by people in the media. Claiming that keeping schools closed was “for the safety of the students” despite all data to the contrary was a choice made by people in the Teachers Unions to create bargaining power to try to force districts to cave in to the same list of demands the Unions had been making for decades (but this time claiming that it would mitigate a danger that the actual science showed to be almost non-existent), was a choice made by people not a consequence of a virus. Measels is a far more deadly and contagious virus than SARS-2; no Teachers Union in CA had any reservations about keeping schools open when the vaccination rate for that virus was as low as 20% (in places like Santa Monica and Hollywood, where being anything other than a far-left progressive is considered provocation for a violent response), yet at one point they demanded 100% vaccination off all students and staff before consenting to re-open any schools in the same area.

      Declaring a risk threshold of zero with regard to when it would be “safe” to re-open anything in the State of CA was a choice made by the Governor, not a consequence of a virus. It’s also not a choice that’s ever been made in reaction to any other virus in the last century (many of which are far more dangerous than SARS-2/Covid-19).

      We all get that it’s a lot easier for you to flog the imagined straw-libertarian in your head than to engage with a thinking person whose ideas differ from your own, but the latter option has a much higher probability of producing something useful than the former.

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  18. Reason endorsed and supported Biden.

  19. The Bush tax cuts gave away roughly the same amount of money to the richest 1% of Americans. Bush never paid for the handout to the richest 1% but put the bill on the nation’s credit card and handed it to us (the 99%) to repay with interest.

    It should be noted Eisenhower had a 70% tax rate, Reagan increased taxes 11 times and Bush & Cheney never vetoed a single spending bill. Everyone should watch the film “Inequality For All” starring a real conservative Republican Alan Simpson.

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