Creating jobs by cutting off unemployment benefits

by YES! Staff

The gratuitously cruel cutoff in benefits to about 70,000 longterm unemployed North Carolinians that went into effect when the clock tolled midnight on Sunday will affect 2,480 people in Forsyth County and 3,930 in Guilford.

Donald Davis, a Winston-Salem resident who got laid off from a job as a forklift driver in King last August, is one of them. Davis and his wife, who has been sporadically employed as a nurse at a local hospital, will have to figure out how to provide for their three children, ages 1, 2 and 3, without the $1,700 check that they had been accustomed to receiving.

What will give? “Gas to go get a job,” Davis said. “I have a vehicle, but if you can’t get gas, what use is it? Most of the jobs are out of the city or in the suburbs. If you ain’t got a car to get there, forget about it. Nobody wants to hire you.”

It will hurt unemployed workers and hobble the economy further by further diminishing demand for goods and services.

The architect of the changes in North Carolina’s unemploy ment insurance system is Rep. Julia Howard, who represents Davie County, along with the western portion of Forsyth. The rationale for the cutoff in benefits — that helping businesses will eventually help workers — is neatly woven into blamethe-victim mentality in a statement she gave to WRAL News in January.

“I’m saying that we have to  find jobs for the people; this is becoming a welfare program,” she said. “We have got to get jobs in North Carolina. We have got to stop the extra taxation of businesses. They could be hiring people and creating jobs.”

Howard’s welfare-equivalency remark raised some cane at a press conference hosted by Sen. Earline Parmon (D-Forsyth) on Monday. Davis shook his head at the notion.

“I don’t know too many men who want to sit at home and want to have their families go through hardships,” he said. “To say it’s like welfare — come on. It shows me some people don’t care.”

The Democrats, who controlled the General Assembly until 2010, have to bear some responsibility for the current mess. When the fund was flush during more prosperous times, the Democratic-led legislature voted to reduce payments to give business owners a break. That was unwise.

But the current fix is rash and extreme. It will hurt unemployed workers and hobble the economy further by further diminishing demand for goods and services. And by reducing benefit levels for the newly unemployed, the state forfeited federal funding.

“Quite literally, the dollars turned back to the federal government,” Rep. Ed Hanes Jr. said, “and handed to other states like Arizona and Ohio.”

Howard’s statement to WRAL in January makes an implicit promise that reducing the tax burden on businesses will lead to more hiring.

No one should hold their breath, but let’s hope for the sake of our friends, family and neighbors who have been subjected to this catastrophe that she knows what she’s talking about.

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