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Murc’s Law: Coronavirus Edition

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The New York Times rightfully points out that the first of what I am sure are going to many stimulus/relief bills has some problems. The biggest is that the sick leave provisions are pathetic and exclude both small and large employers. Yeah, I’d say that’s a real problem. But while mentioning that the real reason is that Republicans wouldn’t agree to such provisions, all the blame goes on Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats.

But House Democrats also failed to act in the public interest. Paying sick workers to stay at home is both good policy and good politics. Why not pass a bill that required all employers to provide paid sick leave and then force Republicans to explain their objections to the public?

The bill does require some employers to provide full-time workers with up to 10 days of paid leave. But the requirement does not apply to the nation’s largest employers — companies with 500 or more workers, who together employ roughly 54 percent of all workers.

After a Waffle House employee tested positive for the coronavirus earlier this month, the company refused to promise it would pay other sick workers to stay home. Now, under the new bill, it would qualify for the big-company exemption. Would Ms. Pelosi please explain why the House decided not to require Waffle House to protect its workers and customers by paying for sick leave?

Because the Republican Party is a bunch of sociopaths?

The legislation also provides some compensation for workers who need to take longer leaves under the Family and Medical Leave Act — but this too excludes workers at big companies.

And the bill allows the Labor Department to grant hardship exemptions to businesses with fewer than 50 employees. That category includes another 26 percent of the work force, meaning that fully 80 percent of workers may not be able to cash in on Ms. Pelosi’s rhetoric.

Democrats began this process in the right place. The first draft of the coronavirus legislation included a permanent change requiring employers to allow every worker to earn up to seven days of paid sick leave, and a temporary change allowing any worker to take up to 10 days of sick leave during a public health emergency. The final draft includes only a pale shadow of those sensible requirements. The paid sick leave requirement is narrowly focused on the coronavirus; it does not even require paid sick leave during future pandemics — a contemptible signal that political leaders are already committed to not learning the lessons of this one.

It goes on in this way. Look, I guess that House Democrats could have just keep holding out on this until next week. Maybe Republicans would have caved in growing desperation. On the other hand, this may be the first bill but it is certainly not the last. Each of the bills will by necessity have to expand the safety net so long as Democrats control the House. But each will probably also include some kind of additional compromise with a political party that is completely fine if you die, so long as they don’t have to pay the cost. It’d be nice if this reality was recognized. But no, all the blame just belongs to Democrats.

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