John McCroskey Commentary: Incentivizing Not Working Is Madness


Since this pandemic started and the government shut down many businesses, they at first seemed surprised that unemployment went up. 

That only further eroded my confidence in the brain trust running the federal government.

Of course unemployment would go up — you shuttered many small businesses and made people stay home.

Then, in addition to normal unemployment, they offered a bunch more money on top of it, which made many of those unemployed more than whole. If they felt the need to spend money they didn’t have, why not just make up the difference from what they were making and what unemployment would pay? Especially since the shutdown wasn’t their fault but rather government policy. 

But when they paid people more than they made at their job to stay home, it’s not rocket science to see what would happen. In fact, like many of the COVID-19 restrictions and responses, it wasn’t science at all. Just more bad policy.

My wife and I have made a couple recent trips in our small RV and have seen the “help wanted” signs everywhere. Even here at home, small businesses can’t get the help they need to fully reopen. Not all of these are minimum wage jobs either; some of them pay pretty well. But they can’t entice enough workers back to work or compete with “free” government money, which isn’t free at all.

So the question is this; if there are so many jobs available, why aren’t the unemployed expected to find one and go to work? And if we’re going to give people money — earned by those who are working — why not help them only if they are able and willing to help themselves? 

According to a recent story about jobs, Sen. Ben Sasse reported there were 7.4 million jobs available, but only about 300,000 workers returned to work.


Because they don’t have to.

When I was a kid, my dad worked for a large logging firm and he was laid off every winter for snow and every summer for fire. He looked for work every day, took all kinds of crappy jobs — like cleaning chicken barns — to supplement unemployment and the box of staples that was welfare back then.

And he wasn’t the only one.

Not since Gov. Dixie Lee Ray, a Democrat, has Washington tried to give people enough to get by but expected them to work if they could. And if memory serves me, a court said it was too much to expect able-bodied people to work and overturned her decision.

There are people who need the help, and we should help. We should help them work and support themselves and their families because there is dignity in that.

What’s lost on many elected officials who love to spend other people’s money is every “free” thing they give to someone, someone else has had to work for. Nothing is free, and the government has no money of its own. In fact, they are in deep debt.

So now President Joe Biden has come out and said that people receiving unemployment must now accept a “suitable” job if offered one. 

Weasel words in my opinion.

If they don’t apply for said “suitable” job, then what? What if they only apply for jobs they are not qualified for? In fact, Fox Business reported he also rejected an end to the $300 sweetened unemployment incentive in his America Rescue Plan. More bad policy.

In sales, there are several compensation models, but the one I’m most familiar with is base salary and benefits plus commission. The base pay won’t make anyone happy, but hard work selling the products can. This madness of incentivizing not working is just that — madness.

And only in the twisted world that is Washington, D.C., is it apparently a good idea.

Those that can need to get to work.


John McCroskey was Lewis County sheriff from 1995 to 2005. He lives outside Chehalis, and can be contacted at