Just Plain Tough For South Carolina’s Unemployed

CNN has an interesting piece on Unemployment Insurance in South Carolina, headlined “Tough Love for South Carolina’s Jobless.”  They could have omitted the word “love” for a more accurate depiction of the situation.

The article quotes Sen. Kevin Bryant (R-Anderson) singing the same old song about how we need to worry about protecting freedom instead providing handouts – “subsidizing poor behavior,” as he puts it. Except for a few, short-lived (and promising) experiments with progressive policies, this is the same “blame the victim” line that South Carolina’s political leaders have applied to poverty issues since our days as a colony. We’ve tried this approach for the majority of our existence.

CNN notes where it has gotten us:

South Carolina is one of the poorest states in the nation, and its official unemployment rate — just under 10 percent — is higher than the nation’s. It has been since the recession began.

It ranks near the bottom — 45th — in the amount of money it gives to people who’ve lost jobs. The average check is $235 a week. And South Carolina cuts off benefits six weeks earlier than most other states.

It’s mind-blowing that some state leaders think people enjoy living on this pittance, as if it were enough to satisfy even the least ambitious among us. It’s also mind-blowing that in a state whose Evangelical Christians form one of the most (in)famous voting blocs in the nation, our policy makers give such shrift to the teachings of the Gospel of Jesus, referencing instead the Old Testament, in order to tar the poor.

“And it’s unfortunate that we do have a mind-set that is really based on breaking one of the Commandments — Thou shalt not covet. We have some segment in our society that feels like they are deserving of something taken from somebody else. And we’ve got to get away from that,” Bryant said.

Right. Our economic problems stem from the jealousy of the have-nots.

Our side came at the issue a little differently, a little more attentive to facts.

“The problem is, we are a poor state,” says Sue Berkowitz, director of South Carolina Appleseed Legal Justice Center, a nonprofit group that works on behalf of poor people.

“We don’t have many jobs. The jobs we have don’t pay living wages. Instead of addressing the real problems out there, he’s blaming people for having misfortune.”

Frank Knapp says Kevin Bryant isn’t alone in doing that. Knapp heads the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce.

“What we typically do here in South Carolina is try to blame the victim — instead of having a true game plan to grow our economy from the bottom up,” Knapp told CNN this week.

South Carolina has long tried to create jobs by recruiting outside manufacturers — such as BMW and Boeing — by offering huge tax breaks and other incentives.

One of those incentives is South Carolina’s cheap labor force. It’s a right-to-work state, meaning unions have little influence.

Knapp says the state’s strategy of “chasing the big elephants” has left South Carolina with a vulnerable economy.

“We rely on all these deals to recruit a manufacturer from another state,” he said. That’s what we did with Boeing. Boeing was going to build someplace. We won that deal. Did we create any new jobs for this country that weren’t going to be created anyway? No.”

“But if we invested a little more effort in South Carolina to grow small businesses and create jobs that would not go anywhere else, and are never going to move out of state — we would have more of a sustainable economy.”

There’s more to this article, too. Check it out.