Florida's Governor Rick Scott Takes 'Big Government' to New Heights: Forcing Welfare Recipients to Pay for Their Own Drug Tests
As Rachel Maddow explained here, in states from Michigan, to Missouri to Florida, Republicans have been doing everything in their power to make their states as unresponsive to the needs of the poor and the unemployed as possible and to make sure the economy in their states do not improve in the process. But Florida Governor Rick Scott has managed to take that to a new low with a bill to drug test welfare recipients -- Welfare drug test bill heads to Fla. Gov. Scott.
So much for those so-called "small government" conservatives wanting to keep the government out of our lives. No regulations for businesses but mandatory drug testing for poor people and a complete waste of the taxpayers' money.
Here's more on Florida's cuts to their unemployment benefits -- Deal struck to further cut Florida unemployment benefits:
Out-of-work Floridians would receive fewer state benefits while businesses pay less tax under a controversial proposal approved Friday by a divided Legislature.
The deal, which Gov. Rick Scott is expected to sign into law, immediately cuts unemployment benefits by 11.5 percent.
Jobless Floridians would continue to receive a maximum payment of $275 per week, among the lowest of any state in the country. But they would be paid for no more than 23 weeks, instead of 26.
Cutting the number of weeks was a victory for Scott and the Republican House, which had fought Senate sponsor Nancy Detert to reduce the number of weeks. The bill, HB 7005, passed along party lines in both the Senate and the House. [...]
The bill also makes it easier for a business to show employees were fired for cause, preventing them from receiving benefits. Unemployment tax rates for businesses are largely tied to the number of former workers receiving jobless benefits.
"It's a disaster," said AFL-CIO spokesman Rich Templin.
And here's more from the HuffPo on the bill:
Thanks to a pending law, next January Florida will become the stingiest state in America when it comes to unemployment insurance benefits.
A bill awaiting Republican Gov. Rick Scott's signature will cut unemployment taxes on businesses by reducing the maximum benefits for people laid off through no fault of their own to 23 weeks. That's three fewer weeks than the standard 26 weeks provided by nearly every state for the past 50 years. And as the unemployment rate falls, benefits will diminish on a sliding scale, with a floor of just 12 weeks when the rate is 5 percent or lower. [...]
National Employment Law Project, a worker advocacy group, has said Florida will take first place in what the group has called a "race to the bottom" once Gov. Scott signs the bill. Florida is the third state after Michigan and Missouri to cut the standard 26 weeks of benefits. The reductions in the Florida bill, which are the steepest by far, will take effect in January.
Transcript below the fold.
MADDOW: One of the many, many things that is bad about being out of work is that it doesn`t just destroy your personal economy, your personal economy. It isn`t just financially disastrous for you as a person. Your reduced resources and your sudden lack of buying power once you`re unemployed make it harder for the whole rest of the economy, too. It`s a spiral, right?
The economy gets weak. People get laid off. Those laid off people buy less, which hurts the businesses they would otherwise be buying stuff from, which causes more layoffs. All of which creates a recessionary spiral. It is a bad deal.
It is part of the reason we have unemployment insurance in this country. It protects you as an unemployed person. It also protects the whole economy from the effects of there being a lot of unemployment and result in poverty all at once.
Republican state legislatures are doing their best to weaken that very important economic safety net right now. Along with their real abolished your local democracy emergency financial measure, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder and Michigan Republicans also cut unemployment benefits by six weeks. So, they would be the least in the nation.
The Michigan Republicans were followed soon thereafter by the Missouri Republicans. And now the Missouri Republicans have been followed by the Florida Republicans. In Florida, the unemployment rate is 11.1 percent. It is worse even than Michigan.
And unemployment benefits already in Florida are among the worst in the nation. The weekly benefits in Florida are 47th lowest in the country. They`re already about as -- doing about as little as they can. As little as they can possibly do in Florida, to protect their economy as a state from the effect of having so many people there that are unemployed.
But, now, Florida has found a way to do even less, to make it even worse for unemployed people and for the state`s economy. They are slashing the number of weeks for which you can get unemployment benefits in Florida.
What is this likely to do to Florida`s already bad economy, their already horrific job situation?
Well, when Moody`s looked at the effectiveness of different economic policies in terms of their likely impact on the economy as a whole, they found that for every dollar you spend on extending unemployment benefits, we get back $1.61 in economic growth.
So, now, slashing unemployment benefit -- what`s going to happen to economic growth in Florida? Maybe we should consult the economics department from one of Florida`s fine public universities.
You must be careful where you tread there, though? Do you see in the "St. Petersburg Times" this week?
Apparently, conservative billionaire Charles Koch, brother of the guy seen shaking hands with John Boehner at the Manhattan economic club in the previous slide -- yes, billionaire Charles Koch has purchased a faculty hiring rights at Florida State University`s economics department. No, really.
Quoting now from "The Times," "A conservative billionaire who opposes government meddling in business has bought a rare commodity, the right to interfere in faculty hiring at a publicly-funded university." "The Times" reports that in exchange for a $1.5 billion donation from the Charles G. Koch Foundation, quote, "an advisory committee appointed by Mr. Koch decides which candidates should be considered for teaching positions in the department. The foundation can also withdraw its funding if it`s not happy with the faculty`s choice, or if the hires don`t meet objectives set by Koch during annual evaluations."
The deal was signed in 2008. And during the first round of hiring in 2009, Koch rejected nearly 60 percent of the faculties suggestions.
But no matter who is vetting and paying for this scholarship, there really isn`t a sound economic basis on which to justify "the kick the poor" policy that is moving forward in Florida right now. I mean, economically, it will be bad for the state -- particularly when there`s not even a "we`re broke, we can`t afford to pay out your unemployment insurance benefits" argument to be made, right?
They`re not using the money they`ll no longer pay in unemployment benefits to plug some hole in the state deficit. They`re not doing that. The money they will save from not paying unemployment will be given away in the form of corporate tax breaks.
So, it will not help the deficit. It is likely to slow economic growth. It will economically hurt the most economically hurting people in the state.
There is no economic argument for what they`re doing. So, you`re left with the ideological government, that the government should be small, that the government should do as little as possible. And if one of the things the government can do is pay out unemployment insurance benefits to people who are out of the job, then the government should just do less of that because the government should do as little as possible.
Economically, it might be a disaster, but at least it will be small government. Maybe that explains it. Except, at the same time that Florida is doing this, Florida Republicans have also decided to start mandatory drug testing of Florida residents receiving public benefits -- not people who are suspected of drug abuse, but everybody forced drug testing by the government.
And the state will have to pay for those forced drug tests for the folks who aren`t, you know, on drugs. Or they will reimburse those forced drug tests. The bill also says you actually have to front the money for your forced drug test. You have to front the money for your forced drug test.
Just paying for those forced drug tests could cost the state of Florida $1 million to nearly $8 million. If you -- you have to front the money to pay for your forced drug test. And then if you turn up clean, they`ll reimburse you the money. So, the state is then paying for it. If you don`t turn up clean, then you`re the one who has paid for the test. That`s their new small government system.
So, Florida is slowing down their own economy in a way that doesn`t help the deficit, in a way that hurts the worse-off people among them, in a way that spends a bunch of money in order to expand the government to a never-before-seen size. So, the government in Florida, it will now be big enough that it can seize your bodily fluids even if you are not suspected of anything amiss with those fluids.
This is the world according to the Republican Party in the state of Florida, which is now as always the great Petri dish of American politics.