January 10, 2012
After having elected Nikki Haley to the Governor’s office in 2010, South Carolina has served as a hotbed of reactionary politics aimed at cutting and privatizing services, union busting, and attacking the unemployed as lazy criminals and drug addicts. However, for all of the rhetoric spewed from people like Haley and her cohorts in the State House and Senate, it is obvious that their ultimate political goals are no different from that of President Barack Obama.
In 2008, the independent media was on fire reporting the comments by then Obama White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel regarding his mandatory civil service plan that would require every American between the ages of 18-25 to undergo three months of basic training complete with military-style exercises and indoctrination. Later, in 2009, the GIVE Act (also known as the Serve America Act) was passed by the House and Senate and signed into law by Obama. This bill contained much of language bounced back and forth between those such as Emmanuel who would require Americans to engage in some type of mandatory “civilian service.” (Read “mandatory civilian service” to mean slavery.)
In 2012, those Federal attempts at conscription and enslavement are also manifesting themselves at the State level.
Recently, it was announced that a bill is circulating in the South Carolina State House of Representatives that would require anyone receiving unemployment benefits for longer than six months to volunteer for 16 hours a week in order to continue receiving the benefits. Of course, using the term “benefits” should be used loosely, as one who is receiving an unemployment check is only receiving a return on the investment he/she made in taxes paid to the unemployment system. After all, one does not consider a car insurance payment made after an accident to be a benefit.
Nevertheless, the premise behind the bill is that the unemployed are unemployed by choice and by virtue of their own laziness, and that they should therefore be forced to “carry their own weight.” Although South Carolina is suffering under a real unemployment rate of about 18 to 20 percent, (and an official rate using flawed statistics of about 9.9%), the propaganda of characterizing those out of work due to decades of insane trade policy and domestic deindustrialization as “those people who don’t want to work” has been surprisingly successful within the ranks of the general public. That is why a bill such as this one is so dangerous.
In reference to the hare-brained “mandated volunteerism” scheme, the bill’s sponsor, Senator Paul Campbell stated, “I just think if someone’s busy working, they’ll be more industrious and more likely to get a job. Depending on the skill they’ve got, I think we can put that skill to work. I’m not talking about collecting garbage on the side of the highway.”
Of course, the type of work being required has not exactly been specified. Not only that, one must wonder – if out-of-work South Carolinians are not going to be doing traditional community service work, will they be forced to work for private companies? If so, who will these private companies be?
Obviously, the question of what kind of work citizens will be coerced into performing is a secondary issue. The real problem is that the government would be granted the authority to demand such a thing in the first place. Not only that, but while one may be tempted to argue that anyone who does not wish to volunteer would simply be able to refuse the unemployment money, the fact is that the money does not belong to the government – it belongs to those who have paid in contributions over their many years of working. It thus belongs to the people. The government, State or Federal, has absolutely no right to demand preconditions other than those specified in the original Unemployment Insurance agreement.
More importantly, Governments have no right under natural law to demand that its citizenry work for free under any circumstances. Indeed, a population that is forced or coerced to work with no compensation is not a free population at all – it is enslaved.
Nevertheless, Governor Nikki Haley has expressed support for the bill.
South Carolina is not the first state to attempt to implement such a fascist program, however. Florida tried to pass a bill last year that was similar to the one currently being discussed in South Carolina. Thankfully, the bill was killed when the Department of Labor informed lawmakers that their ridiculous plan would conflict with Federal law.
Unfortunately, reactionary politics have surrounded unemployment benefits in South Carolina for some time. Remember, only a matter of months ago, Governor Nikki Haley made headlines all across the state when she claimed that anyone receiving State unemployment benefits should be forced to undergo mandatory drug testing before receiving their money. In order to back up her case, Haley attempted to use the Savannah River Site as a microcosm of the unemployment situation in South Carolina.
According to Haley, over half to a local government facility had failed the drug test and this was emblematic of those who are unemployed all over the state.
The problem was that this never actually happened. In fact, the claims couldn’t have been further from the truth.
As I wrote on November 29, 2011 regarding this incident,
Once one can get past the implications for civil liberties and privacy as well as the irony of a reactionary politician who constantly screams about ‘cutting spending’ suggesting that drug testing be implemented on a statewide scale, one should also be concerned about a Governor that simply makes up statistics as the basis for the justification of such a policy. Or, as she herself suggested, one that simply believes whatever she is told as long as it sounds good.
Haley was quickly forced to retract her wild claims when they were proven false. In her defense, Haley stated, “I’ve never felt like I had to back up what people tell me. You assume you’re given good information. And now I’m learning through you guys that I have to be careful before I say something.”
Again, however, Florida is never to be outdone in the race toward tyranny. The state actually passed and enacted a law which required drug testing for welfare recipients, but the law was struck down by a Federal judge on Constitutional grounds. Texas also attempted to pass similar legislation but, due to concerns over cost, the bill was abandoned.
A U.S. House version of a bill dealing with payroll tax cuts and extensions to jobless benefits also contained provisions that would allow states to mandate drug testing. Those provisions, however, did not survive to the final version.