Great. We're almost FINALLY done covering the city elections, and we were looking forward to a break from politics, but the legislature is already getting a head start on the crazy, and well, it is still our job to keep you informed. And normally we don't have opinions on all of the nuttiness, but this -- well, this just makes us mad.
Ron Ramsey, our wonderful, fabulous Lieutenant Governor, who sometimes makes dear State Sen. Stacey Campfield seem rational, has a new idea to make Tennessee a more business-friendly place: Cut down on unemployment benefits. Yes, during this time of a national recession and an international shitty economy, Ramey wants to make sure the people who can't find jobs get even LESS money than they already do. The Kingsport Times-News reports:
Tennessee Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey told about 60 business leaders Thursday to look for future unemployment compensation system changes favoring employers.Ramsey, during his "Red Tape Road Trip" luncheon highlighting government's negative effect on business, said he's been getting an earful from employers about people opting for an unemployment check rather than seeking a job when the state's jobless rate remains well above 9 percent.He cited a trucking company that wants but can't find drivers and a heating and cooling firm with unfilled technician positions."When does it become a benefit and when does it become a lifestyle?" Ramsey, R-Blountville, asked of the current unemployment compensation system.Weekly unemployment pay averages $285 a week, and beneficiaries aren't pressed hard enough to look for work, Ramsey said.About 400,000 workers file initial and partial unemployment claims annually while approximately 114,000 employers pay premiums for unemployment insurance, according to the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development.Ramsey's special assistant, Jordan Young, found about two-thirds of state unemployment claims are rejected in favor of the employer upon appeal."There are jobs out there. ... It may not be the job you want, but there are jobs out there," Ramsey said.
As someone who was unemployed for a year and ran out of unemployment before landing this job, this reporter can vouch that $285 a week is not very much money. And I didn't have children to feed, just pets. I can't imagine how a single parent does it. And it's not as easy to find a job as Ramsey thinks it is -- I'll be glad to send him all my old cover letters as proof. I applied for over 50 reporting gigs, not to mention any number of clerical, restaurant, and retail jobs. It took me a year after I was laid off (due to state budget cuts, natch). A year of $285 a week. My rent alone was half of that.
So we'd love to see Ramsey live on $285 a week. We'd love to see Ramsey apply for jobs at Walmart and get turned down for being overqualified. We'd love for him to actually make the attempt to see how over 9 percent of the state is currently living. Hell, this reporter will even pony up her own money if Ramsey takes us up on her challenge. PLEASE, Ron Ramsey, try living on $300 for just ONE week. But I bet a month's worth of unemployment wouldn't even cover your mortgage.
Oh, and speaking of ole' Stacey, his latest brilliant idea also involves unemployment -- specifically, drug-testing anyone who receives it. We wish we could say we didn't think this would go anywhere. We'd also like to know how in the hell Stacey plans to pay for it. Drug testing isn't cheap, and the unemployed don't have any wages. We'd also wager this law isn't exactly constitutional, but good lord, we know that never stops the legislature from doing a damn thing.
It's going to be a long winter.