As we noted in this space yesterday morning, there were some things to like in Gov. Pat McCrory’s State of the State speech Wednesday evening. For the most part, the Governor sounded more like good ol’ Moderate Mayor Pat rather than the champion of reactionary change who signed some of the nation’s most extreme legislation during his first two years in office.
Still, there were moments when Ebenezer Scrooge McCrory was on display — perhaps most notably when he talked about unemployment insurance and workers’ compensation. In both segments, the Governor’s message was as clear as it was callous and offensive: the Governor believes (and his policies are premised on the notion) that large numbers of North Carolina workers are lazy and don’t want to work.
How else to explain his crowing about having enacted the harshest unemployment insurance cuts in U.S. history and then repeatedly professing a desire to create jobs for all who “want to work”? And if one had any idea that these repeated references were simply an awkward if unnecessary nod to retired folks and, perhaps, the disabled, these were pretty thoroughly trashed when the Governor went off on a lengthy diatribe about how his “examination of workers compensation estimates that 40 percent of workers costs are related to abuse or outright fraud.”
Say what, Governor? Do you really believe that large numbers of people don’t want to work and that that’s why some were surviving on unemployment insurance during the Great Recession? Do you really believe that two out of five worker’s comp claims are bogus?
If so, perhaps you should have checked ahead of time with Rep. Jason Saine. Saine, of course, is the GOP state lawmaker who only managed to get off unemployment insurance by getting elected to the House of Representatives.
Or, perhaps he could have talked with one of the state’s most respected and experienced worker’s comp lawyers — Raleigh’s Leonard Jernigan. As WRAL.com reported this morning:
“Leonard Jernigan, a Raleigh lawyer who specializes in workers compensation cases, says he applauds the governor for tackling fraud.
‘But in more than 20 years working on these cases, I’ve never seen a study that even remotely comes close to that number,’ Jernigan said, referring to the 40 percent figure. ‘I’ve looked at many reports in many states, and I’ve never ever, ever heard of a report that shows a figure that high. I would love to see those statistics.’
Jernigan says the highest number he has seen for actual convictions in workers compensation fraud cases is 1 percent in Washington state. He said employers are more likely to commit the kind of fraud recently documented by the Office of the State Auditor.”
The bottom line: The Governor likes to portray himself as a moderate and caring everyman who worries about puppies and tears up at the thought of a state trooper fighting his way back from terrible injuries. But that image quickly rings hollow when he lapses into unfounded Romneyisms of this kind. If he really believes this kinds of malarkey, at least he could spare us and save it for the country club.