Editorial: System fix requires focus

Jan. 30, 2013 @ 05:36 PM

After getting off the floor from laughing, seriously consider what Action NC has proposed for Gov. Pat McCrory.

Action NC describes itself as a “grassroots community organization that empowers low to moderate-income communities to take action and win victories on issues of concern to our communities.”

If they win this one, we might all want to sign on.

The proposal to the newly elected governor: live off $350 a week. Currently, unemployed in our state collect about $535. McCrory is considering a bill that would lower the amount nearly $200.

For perspective with a little math, a minimum wage job of 40 hours per week yields $290. For a little more perspective, none of our neighbors — Virginia, South Carolina, Tennessee or Georgia — pay more than $400 a week.

The group is claiming unemployed North Carolinians shouldn’t bear the brunt of a state that owes $2.5 billion to the federal government, money borrowed to pay unemployment benefits.

We agree the unemployed shouldn’t be hurt. But we argue those who earn minimum wage, $7.25 an hour, should not be encouraged to quit working in order to get more money — at taxpayers’ expense. After all, unemployment is for bridging a gap.

When the system is broke, someone has to take responsibility for fixing it. And Action NC’s well-intentioned spotlight grab hasn’t done that.

For full balance of disclosure, McCrory didn’t help himself when he gave Cabinet secretaries raises and blurted out he was “trying to make it at least where they can afford to live while running multibillion-dollar departments.”

Those salaries for eight individuals were $121,807 annually. Four now make $135,000 a year, four bucks shy of $2,600 a week. We hear you, governor.

Economic development leaders and politicians talk incentives all the time, usually with bringing new business to town with new jobs. Our broken system that pays more to be unemployed than to work needs fixing, and incentive should also be front and center for the unemployed and those working for minimum wage.

Both Action NC and Gov. McCrory will do well to keep their eyes focused where they should be as lawmakers deliver a solution.