by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Writing for National Review Online’s primary blog, “The Corner,” John Hood offers a nationwide audience some critical context as they consider news about North Carolina’s unemployment story.
The proximate cause for today’s new round of national and international media attention is that North Carolina just became the only state in the union to end federal extended benefits for unemployment insurance. The national reporters don’t get the background quite right, however. Like many states, North Carolina has racked up a massive debt to Washington for UI benefits paid in excess of state UI funds. Because North Carolina’s economy remains stagnant and the state’s UI benefits were higher than the regional average, the new Republican legislature and governor fashioned a reform package to limit the effects of future UI tax increases, which are required by federal law for states with UI debts. North Carolina’s reforms include lower maximum weekly benefits and shorter benefit durations. While other states have received federal waivers to continue to participate in extended benefits despite changing their state benefits in violation of federal maintenance-of-effort rules, North Carolina was denied a waiver — apparently, the only state so denied. In any event, North Carolina’s new leaders understand that maintaining relatively high public-assistance levels, for both UI and Medicaid, is hardly a rational strategy for economic growth. Thousands of liberals may protest, and MSNBC may do a dozen more segments, but North Carolina’s reform agenda will proceed.
As Hood noted recently, these reforms are tied to a truly progressive agenda influencing legislation in the halls of North Carolina’s General Assembly.