The moral poverty of North Carolina's GOP legislature

Wednesday, February 20, 2013   |   Posted by Jim Hightower
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As one who's been there, I can tell you that being unemployed is punishment enough, without having a pack of ideologically hidebound legislators snarling, snapping, and ripping at your meager rations.

Welcome to North Carolina, where the Republican-controlled Legislature and their governor have gone after the state's hard-hit unemployed people like howling mad dogs. In a state with the fifth highest unemployment rate – now at 9.2 percent – these "tar-heads" have slashed the lifeline of half-a-million people struggling to hang onto their middle class possibilities.

It's not like North Carolina's benefits were at all luxurious before this assault on them. Benefits were only $535 a week, but now they've been whacked to $350. Try to cover even life's basics – rent, utilities, food and clothing, and gas for job hunting – on $1,400 a month. And please don't get sick. Plus, in their wisdom, the right-wing solons slashed the weeks of eligibility for jobless aid from 26 to as few as 12. After that? "Adios chump," says the GOP (trying out its new Spanish-language appeal to Latino voters).

By cutting the weeks so low, the GOP geniuses tripped over their own extremism, for that disqualifies 170,000 North Carolinians from the federal program of extended benefits, needed by those suffering from long term unemployment. This stumble will cost the state's economy about $780 million.

That's interesting, because the Republican rationale for going after so many vulnerable families was (1) that the deep cuts would pay down the state debt, and (2) that they need to shrink government to make North Carolina's economic climate more attractive to business interests.

Stupidity aside, how can an entire party have strayed so far from common, Sunday school morality and plain human decency, as to cater to corporate interests on the backs of the jobless?

"North Carolina Approves Steep Benefits Cuts for Jobless in Bid to Reduce Debt," New York Times, February 14, 2013.

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