Unemplyoment bill in SC

I can’t say I entirely disagree with efforts in South Carolina to reform how unemployment benefits are paid out. Basically, they want to get people back to work doing something. Some of it makes sense:

A Senate panel advanced bills Tuesday that would require people laid off in South Carolina to pass a drug test to receive unemployment benefits, then volunteer 16 hours weekly with a charity or public agency to keep receiving a check…

Another policy change would require people drawing unemployment benefits to accept job offers that pay incrementally less than their previous wages.

The change means those drawing unemployment benefits must accept job offers that pay 90 percent of their previous wage after four weeks. The percentage would drop every four weeks. After 16 unemployment payments, they’d have to accept 70 percent of their previous income. Once federal extensions kick in at 20 weeks, they’d have to accept minimum wage labor.

I can agree with the volunteer work to an extent. Currently there are companies which state that people out of work for certain periods of time need not apply. There have been movements to make it illegal to do that (which I support), but I don’t know of any state that has actually passed any legislation. Having people volunteer in certain areas would counter some of the concerns of the douchebag companies out there. (I don’t know the ins-and-outs of the bill, but it would make sense to include internships as well.)

Of course, this doesn’t come without its problems. A person on unemployment in South Carolina gets about $235 a week. As a single individual with roommates, I could get by on that if need be, but anyone with kids is necessarily going to struggle. I can’t imagine it would be easy to pay for daycare or a babysitter for 16 hours a week while already on such a tight budget. For some people the SC bill is only going to make life more difficult, thus forcing them onto welfare for longer. That would be counter-productive for everybody.

On drug tests, I think that’s just a stupid idea. Relatively few people on welfare spend their money on illegal drugs, so the whole idea isn’t practical. And for those who do imbibe such substances, the testing costs are astronomical compared to the savings for the states.

On forcing people to accept job offers that suck, there are two obvious problems. First, fuck you to anyone who forces a person to work at a particular place or for a particular wage. Given how fond Republicans are of pretending that taxes are somehow akin to enslavement, I would think they might be more sensitive to forcing people into certain actions regarding their economic well-being. Second, any company that sees a large gap in a person’s work history is liable to intentionally offer that person the lowest wage they know they can get away with. All this does is create cheap labor for businesses by unfair means. If the state wishes to encourage people to get off welfare, they should use the carrot, not the stick.

So, some of these ideas aren’t entirely terrible. I think it’s likely the volunteer idea is motivated by the Republican perception that poor people are inherently lazy and bad, but it does have some merit to it. Indeed, the drug testing idea has a similar motivation, though it has no merit. The forced-work/slavery idea is a terrible one, but it has seemingly decent enough motivations. But then, this is South Carolina. I really don’t expect them to fix any of their problems in a way which resembles anything rational. (Sorry, native South Carolinian Stephen Colbert.)

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