The News & Record
South Boston News & Record
and Mecklenburg Sun
Home   •   News   •   Sports   •   Classifieds   •   Community   •   Health   •   Entertainment   •   Obituaries   •   Opinions   •   Weather
Advertising | Contact | Register
Advanced Search
News

Sentara Halifax Regional tightens visitor rules as COVID cases rise

Sentara Halifax Regional Hospital in South Boston on Tuesday announced tightened visitation rules at the hospital as the area witnesses a rise in COVID-19.

State Parks hits snags with bridge repair work

Rotted railroad ties slow down construction project

Teachers, students pan HCHS’s poor condition

‘More like a cave than a building,’ although others point to lagging maintenance

Sports

From Chase City ballfields to MLB riser

Kahlil Watson, first round pick of Miami Marlins, signs $4.5M deal and reports to Florida on his journey from Dixie ball to Major Leagues

Community


Opinion


A&E

Opinion

Spring surprises

SoVaNow.com / May 13, 2021


The April jobs report came out last week and surprised on the downside by showing the U.S. economy created 266,000 jobs — ordinarily a pretty good monthly number, but not so much when everyone is looking for a giant bounceback from the pandemic-driven disaster of the past year. (Some economists predicted the Bureau of Labor Statistics could report up to 1 million jobs added in a single month.)

From this clunker of a report, one should conclude .... what exactly?

Hard to know. April was one month’s data — and unemployment numbers are notoriously noisy. It’s generally best to wait a decent amount of time, as opposed to a single month, before trying to decide what’s really going on.

That hasn’t kept the usual suspects from offering up their usual snap conclusions, which are all too often proven wrong. The American economy is a complex animal, and never has it been more difficult to suss out what is truly driving trends (a booming stock market, supply chain disruptions, a red-hot real estate market, etc.) than it is now.

Why this is is simple: the pandemic. We’re only now emerging from the worst public health emergency in a century, and this was never going to be a smooth affair. While I know everyone is flat tired of hearing about COVID-19, that doesn’t mean it has gone away.

The snap judgment in some quarters on the hiring bust (or blip, more likely) is that the emergency, $300 weekly unemployment insurance benefit enacted in March by Congress and the Biden Administration has made it unnecessarily difficult on businesses that are trying to find help. And in dire need of help many of these employers are: I talk to a lot of local business owners in my daily dealings, and I don’t doubt that their labor shortages are real. Perhaps nowhere is this more true than in the restaurant business, which is trying to ramp up after a positively crushing experience with COVID-19 in 2020.

Capital News Service, a program of Virginia Commonwealth University’s Robertson School of Media and Culture, puts its students to work reporting on news out of Capitol Square and around the state (and the students do a fine job of it.) CNS published an informative piece this week (you’ll find it on page A5) that doesn’t delve much into the subject of unemployment insurance, but it does lay out the scope of the damage to the restaurant business — 60,000 jobs lost in the accommodation and food services industry from March 2020 to March 2021, amounting to 17 percent of all restaurant jobs in Virginia. One nugget buried in all the data — which stands to reason would especially pertain to the leisure and hospitality industry — is that women are returning to the labor force much more slowly than men.

This information alone kinda blasts a hole in the notion, widely held among employers, that the problem is too many millennial bros sitting around their apartments playing video games and drawing unemployment checks instead of getting off their duffs and looking for a job. That some of this may be going on— something like this always goes on — tells us nothing about the role of enhanced UI benefits in keeping the country afloat during a pandemic and unprecedented economic collapse. In fact, the facts suggest the cause of the disappointing April jobs reports lies in several different places. Consider this: people can’t draw unemployment benefits if they aren’t actively looking for work. (If they were laid off and their employer calls them back, they risk giving up their benefits if they refuse to return to work). Do some people cheat the system? Of course they do. But they run a terrible risk of having to pay back the benefits if caught, and there’s considerable evidence to suggest that non-compliance levels are a lot less than the popular imagination holds.

Fun fact: about 3.7 million people in the U.S. are currently drawing unemployment checks. More than 10 million people lost their jobs in 2020. You do the math — and tell me how too many people are drawing too much in UI benefits to be bothered with going back to work.

The fact that so many women have been reluctant to rejoin the active labor force suggests that we have some distance to go before settling into a new, forward-looking normal. Low female workforce participation is most likely caused by identifiable problems — trouble finding child care, having the kids at home instead of in school, and (sorry to have to keep pointing this out) hesitation about going back to work when the virus is still hanging around.

People can (and will) mount their ideological hobbyhorses in trying to make more out the jobs report that it truly warrants, but one thing is undeniable: Until we get past COVID-19, there will continue to be disruptions and setbacks that make life unnecessarily miserable for many, many people — maybe you. When folks truly feel comfortable sidling up to the bar or puffing on the treadmill next to complete strangers at the YMCA, that’s when we’ll know America is back.

Two magic words to make it happen:

Get ...

Vaccinated.

***

Two big items drove the political news this week: Virginia Republicans chose their ticket for statewide office in November, led by gubernatorial nominee Glenn Youngkin, and up in Washington congressional Republicans stripped Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney of her No. 3 leadership position in the House GOP caucus.

First, about Cheney: She was a steadfast enabler of Donald Trump, like most of the rest, until just recently, so the fact her future in the party is now jeopardized by an 11th hour epiphany that Trump and Trumpism are a dire threat to democracy does not, on the one hand, stir much sympathy. On the other, national Republicans (and most state Republicans and many, though not all, grassroots Republicans) have utterly turned their backs on the Constitution, reason, reality, decency and ethics, which means all people of goodwill and belief in the foundations of American democracy should welcome Cheney’s conversion with open arms. And boy, did she light a fire on her way out of the party’s good graces. If you haven’t watched her speech Tuesday night from the House floor, shortly before the vote the next morning to oust her as GOP Conference Chair, you should do so. The whole thing is worth quoting, but one paragraph aimed squarely at Trump stands out:

This is not about policy. This is not about partisanship. This is about our duty as Americans. Remaining silent and ignoring the lie emboldens the liar. I will not participate in that. I will not sit back and watch in silence, while others lead our party down a path that abandons the rule of law and joins the former president’s crusade to undermine our democracy.

As if on cue, the cowards and traitors (yes, this is a fair description) who voted to oust Cheney on Wednesday morning were out in force later in the day to argue that she is wrong, and that up is down, wrong is right, and we’ve always been at war with Eastasia. (George Orwell, our nation turns its lonely eyes to you.) The gaslighting has reached the point where some Republican congressman are saying the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection at the Capitol was no big deal, really, just a few hundred patriotic Americans passing through for that day. Georgia Rep. Andrew Clyde, while allowing that “there was an undisciplined mob” inside the Capitol Building, just said it outright: “Watching the TV footage of those who entered the capital and walked through Statuary Hall showed people in an orderly fashion staying between the stanchions and robes, taking videos, pictures. You know, if you didn’t know the TV footage was a video from January the 6, you would actually think that was a normal tourist visit.”

A normal tourist visit. The mind reels at the unbridled lies such that Cheney forcefully called out in her speech Tuesday. Lies that almost all House Republicans and a clear majority of the party are willing to countenance and spread. Herein lies a zeal and contempt for democracy that is fueling the party’s efforts to rig elections in its favor (with restrictive new voting laws, extreme gerrymandering, unyielding obstructionism, and more) and ensure that Democrats cannot hold power, the will of the people be damned, or if they do, their political legitimacy will never be granted. It once was the case that any mention of the possibility of fascism taking hold in America was considered way, way out of bounds. Now one of our major political parties has dedicated itself to the project. George Orwell bears re-reading today more than ever.

Which leads us to Glenn Youngkin, the party’s pick to run in the fall for governor. What do we know about Mr. Youngkin? Very little. He’s ultra-rich (former co-chair of the Carlyle Group, a mega-finance firm) and he’s a blank slate as a politician: reasonably presentable, not openly nuts (so long Amanda Chase) and not burdened by an actual record in office that others can tear into (bye, too, to Kirk Cox, the former GOP majority leader in the House of Delegates who had the crippling disadvantage in the nomination race of not being a hard-right ideologue.) Youngkin is whatever he wants to make himself out to be — he’s got the money to attempt this neat trick — and the outcome of the election will turn on whether he can convince voters that he’s a true leader and not a puppet, a pushover or a ringleader of the treason wing of the Republican Party.

He’s got his work cut out. Donald Trump has claimed ownership over his campaign, issuing a hearty endorsement without coordinating with the Youngkin campaign, and why not? No Republican can stand up to Trump and keep their job, apparently. So why would Youngkin be any different? In a just world, this race would already be over: any party committed to overturning democracy deserves to be banished from its halls forever, or at least until it can be reconstituted in a radically different form. Who decides whether this should happen? Voters will. Virginia hasn’t elected a Republican statewide in over a decade, and that’s a steep hill Youngkin must climb. If voters are made aware of the stakes in this campaign, will they provide a pass up that hill where they haven’t before?

We shall see.

Classified Advertising

Buy and sell items in News & Record classifieds.