|Republicans Rick Scott and Ron DeSantis.|
For more than two decades, the Republican Party has followed what I call a reverse Robin Hood agenda: take from the poor, working class and middle class and give to the very wealthy and big business. It is one reason America has such a lousy social safety net which was pathetic under good economic conditions and which the Coivd-19 triggered recession - some might argue depression - is proving totally inadequate. Florida - a must win state in the 202 presidential election - is a case in point as the degraded unemployment system (which was further weakened by then governor Rick Scott to save big business billions of dollars) is on the verge of collapse. Thousands cannot successfully file claims and those who do will find that the benefits they receive are among the lowest in the nation. A piece in Politico looks at the ongoing disaster that with luck will haunt Republicans in November 2020 and beyond. Many Floridians are going to learn that GOP pandering to their prejudices and/or religious extremism does absolutely nothing for them in a severe economic downturn. Here are article excerpts:
The staggering unemployment exploding on President Donald Trump’s watch would worry any incumbent running for reelection, but troubles in Florida are injecting an added dose of fear into a jittery GOP.Already anxious about Trump’s chances in the nation’s biggest swing state, Republicans now are dealing with thousands of unemployed workers unable to navigate the Florida system to apply for help. And the blowback is directed straight at Trump’s top allies in the state, Gov. Ron DeSantis and Sen. Rick Scott.
Privately, Republicans admit that the $77.9 million system that is now failing Florida workers is doing exactly what Scott designed it to do — lower the state’s reported number of jobless claims after the great recession. . . . “It wasn’t about saving money. It was about making it harder for people to get benefits or keep benefits so that the unemployment numbers were low to give the governor something to brag about.”
Republican Party of Florida chairman Joe Gruters was more succinct: “$77 million? Someone should go to jail over that.”
With hundreds of thousands of Floridians out of work, the state’s overwhelmed system is making it nearly impossible for many people to even get in line for benefits.
The new online system was part of a series of changes designed to limit benefits. The ultimate goal — which it delivered on — was to lower unemployment taxes paid by Florida businesses. A 2011 analysis done by the Florida Legislature estimated that the changes pushed by Scott would save businesses more than $2.3 billion between 2011 and 2020.
Now, as thousands of people try to get help, the system crashes or denies them access. Nearly 400,000 people have managed to file claims in the last two and half weeks. It’s not known how many have tried and failed.
Most of those who do submit applications won’t qualify for aid, and the benefits that are paid out are among the most meager in the country — a maximum of $275 a week.
“Everyone we talk to in that office when we ask them what happened tells us, ‘the system was designed to fail,’” the adviser said. “That’s not a problem when unemployment is 2.8 percent, but it’s a problem now. And no system we have can handle 25,000 people a day.”
Rep. Charlie Crist, a Democrat who as a Republican governor led Florida through the last downturn, said the state’s current economic catastrophe could doom Trump in the state the president needs if he wants to win reelection.
“If unemployment continues to go up, and if so many people stay unemployed, it’s a nightmare for [Trump]
the presidentin this state,” Crist said. “I should know. When I was governor and I was running for the Senate in the Great Recession — and there was nothing great about it — it was a nightmare.”
An adviser to Marco Rubio’s 2010 Senate campaign didn’t argue.
“We’ve got unemployed, pissed-off people. They can’t get benefits. And when they get them, it’s not going to be enough,” he said. “They’re there for the taking by the Democrats. We killed Charlie with the bad economy in 2010. Democrats are gonna repay the favor.”
Republicans in the Legislature share the blame, said Rep. Jose Javier Rodriguez, a Miami Democrat.
“Rick Scott is the most culpable human being when we look at who’s responsible for the failed system,” Rodriguez said. “But I don’t know of any Republican who resisted these efforts to make Florida the most Scrooge-like state in the nation.”