Berger’s disingenuous claim about unemployment insurance

At his press conference today, Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger said the following about the unemployment insurance overhaul bill that conservative lawmakers and the North Carolina Chamber cooked up in some secret meetings late in 2012:

“Even if the bill is passed as it is, fully 84% of the folks that are receiving benefits or, that the benefits are calculated – the way they are presently – 84% will still be calculated the same way, will still receive the benefits. So you’re talking about 16% that are in that upper area, that uh, that would uh… that the overall benefits will be less for newly unemployed people after the bill goes into effect.”

Got that? Notwithstanding Berger’s tortured English, it’s pretty clear that he’s claiming that 84% of unemployment insurance beneficiaries will be unaffected. You can watch WRAL’s video of his press conference by clicking here. The statement in question is made at around the 31 minute mark.

This was the first time such a number has been trotted out by defenders of the proposal — which again makes one wonder about the secrecy of the way the whole thing has proceeded. But laying the matter of process aside, the question arises: Can Berger’s claim possibly be true? Can it be true that the big money Berger is alleging the proposal will save will be wrung out of only 16% of program beneficiaries? 

Subject to new information from the Senator about what he really meant with his his fumbling attempt at a parsed statement, a preliminary one-word characterization of his claim has to be the following: Baloney!

As the official description prepared by legislative staff makes clear, the bill slashes benefits and eligibility for everyone. Rather than basing benefits on one’s highest income quarter as is now the case, the proposal would look at the last two calendar quarters.  There is also a new waiting week, new cuts to maximum benefits, new cuts to length of eligibility and many others. 

Right now, in the current period of high unemployment, something like 55% of beneficiaries are already exhausting the current maximum stay on the program. Earth to Phil Berger: Your proposal cuts that period. That change alone will mean a reduction for more than half the program participants.

Bottom line: Berger and his team clearly want to slash unemployment insurance benefits and eligibility. Okay – let’s debate that topic. But the senator needs to stop with the disingenuous statements about what he’s really proposing.

 

 

 

5 Comments

  1. JeffS

    January 16, 2013 at 3:35 pm

    Of course it affects everyone. That’s the point. This is just a piece in a comprehensive plan to push down wages in the country.

  2. gregflynn

    January 16, 2013 at 4:48 pm

    According to WRAL it’s on hold now until 2014:

    Republican legislative leaders planned to overhaul the unemployment system this summer, but Berger said it will have to wait until January 2014 because of the American Taxpayer Relief Act, which Congress passed on New Year’s Day to avoid the so-called “fiscal cliff.” The federal law extends federal unemployment benefits, but only for states that don’t make changes to their own benefits.

  3. Rob Schofield

    January 16, 2013 at 4:50 pm

    If true that would be good news. It’s not what he said at the press conference.

  4. Rob Schofield

    January 16, 2013 at 4:56 pm

    WRAL story has now been corrected. Unfortunately, it was a little off.

  5. david esmay

    January 16, 2013 at 8:07 pm

    Berger should have been a plumber, he spends all his time herding turds through the legislature.