Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) argued over the weekend that there is a "downside" to paying women enough to afford childcare.
During an interview that aired on Sunday, WKOW's A. J. Bayatpour asked Johnson about his effort to end a weekly $300 federal benefit for unemployed workers in Wisconsin.
"Unemployment benefits are not meant to provide replacement wages," Johnson insisted. "That was provided during COVID when it was nobody's fault that they were losing their job or they were being encouraged to stay home so they wouldn't spread the disease."
Bayatpour pushed back by noting that many women could not afford to return to work because of rising childcare costs.
"What about the argument that this situation is kind of shining a light on some of the out-of-control costs," Bayatpour said. "The increase in costs that wages haven't kept up with for folks like -- things like childcare. A lot of women are choosing not to go back into the workforce right now because at the end of the day it's a complete wash. Their wages would simply cover the cost of having to pay for childcare that they don't have to pay for now."
For his part, Johnson asserted that wages may be rising too quickly.
"Businesses pay what wages they can afford based on the competitive situation, whether it's in a restaurant, whether it's in manufacturing, where they're competing against foreign manufacturers," the senator said. "I just have greater faith in the marketplace setting appropriate wage rates."
"But there's no doubt about it, wage rates are now being bid up because there is a labor shortage and if you're a worker that's a good thing," he added.
Johnson then spoke about the "downside" of higher wages.
"Commodities go up and down and you can have a temporary increase in prices that are coming back down, whether it's gas prices or lumber prices," he explained. "Increase in wage rates ratchet up and that creates permanent inflation so you may feel good about getting a 5 or 6 or 7% raise but if general inflation is 6, 7, or 8%, that increase is just completely wiped out. That's what the marketplace does."
"I am highly concerned that what we're looking at right now is a witch's brew with all the ingredients for stagflation," Johnson concluded.
Watch the video below from WKOW.
In calling for an end to enhanced unemployment benefits, Sen. Ron Johnson says he's worried wages are rising too much too quickly. pic.twitter.com/4Ko383rLev
— A.J. Bayatpour (@AJBayatpour) May 23, 2021