Among the many topics on which Gov. McCrory has made repeated misleading statements and told downright whoppers in recent months, none has been more frequently front and center than unemployment insurance. Time and again, the Guv has claimed that the state did not take away benefits and/or that the reason for the cut off in federal emergency benefits was that it was President Obama’s fault for not granting North Carolina an exemption or allowing the GOP legislature’s changes to be “grandfathered.”
As has been reported repeatedly, however, these claims are simply false. That’s why the Guv has had to issue clarifications and retractions on more than one occasion. The simple truth is that when Congress put extended emergency benefits in place as part of the economic recovery/stimulus law back in 2009, it told states that they could only continue to access those federally-funded benefits if they didn’t cut benefits and eligibility at the state level. This is a standard congressional practice used by leaders of both parties to help make sure that federal initiatives aren’t undercut by free-riding states with no skin in the game. Federal officials repeatedly told North Carolina this and warned them not to cut benefits lest they jeopardize the state’s participation in the federal emergency program.
The state’s response: A big raspberry. Despite the plain warning (and pleas from advocates to merely delay new cuts until 2014 so as not to run afoul of federal law), legislative leaders and Gov. McCrory plunged ahead with unprecedented cuts to benefits and eligibility that were quite possibly the largest in American history. As a result, the federal government was left with no choice but to abide by the congressional mandate and cut North Carolina off July 1.
So why does McCrory keep making the bizarre claim that it was the feds who are responsible for the cuts? We got a hint as to the answer to that question yesterday when State Budget Director Art Pope made his strange appearance at a protest outside his office organized by the NAACP and others.
In a confrontation with NAACP President William Barber (watch the WTVD video here), Pope renewed the absurd claim that it was the federal government that was responsible for “not grandfathering” North Carolina’s cuts. In other words, it’s Pope’s (and apparently McCrory’s) contention that it’s the federal government’s fault that North Carolina unemployed workers got cut off because it (the federal government) refused to change or waive a longstanding law of which it had repeatedly warned North Carolina leaders they would run afoul. This is like the state passing a law to raise the speed limit on I-40 to 100 m.p.h. and then saying it’s the federal government’s fault for not giving the state a waiver and cutting off federal highway money; it’s utterly nonsensical.
Finally, it should be noted that while some other states did receive federal waivers for unemployment cuts they enacted, this was only for cuts that would go into effect in 2014 and later — that is, after the expiration of the federal emergency benefits. If McCrory and Pope had only followed this path and delayed their cuts until 2014 (as advocates asked them to do repeatedly) tens of thousands of unemployed North Carolinians would still be paying their rents and light bills. As it is, many of those people are now suffering greatly.
And make no mistake, the people directly responsible for this pain are Gov. McCrory, Art Pope and the leaders of the General Assembly.