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Dear Decaturish – Governor’s decision to reopen businesses is political murder

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Dear Decaturish – Governor’s decision to reopen businesses is political murder

George Chidi
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Editor’s note: To see our most recent story about who can collect unemployment benefits, click here

Dear Decaturish,

You really want to know what I think about the governor’s decision to reopen many businesses closed by COVID-19?

It’s about making sure people can’t file unemployment. It isn’t about saving lives, certainly. It’s not about the peak of the curve. I think lots of people are going to ignore the governor and stay home regardless. This isn’t a decision being driven by epidemiology. It’s the rawest and most lethal of political decisions, and it will kill people.

Kemp is looking forward to the fiscal discussion in 2021 and 2022, when all of this really starts to hit. He got elected by out-yahooing the field. His base has been trained to view government spending as a crime, and he knows that he becomes politically vulnerable to an attack if he raises taxes. He is not capable of delivering a nuanced message around necessity, because his base doesn’t know how to hear it.

The state is staring at one million unemployment applications. It probably cannot pay those over six months. The unemployment fund has a reserve of about $2.6 billion. Last week it paid out about $42 million — which is about three times as much as it usually does. That figure will double in two weeks, give or take. Maybe more.

At that rate, the fund is empty in about 28 weeks. Probably less. Even if things improve later, that fund will run dry in a year, because unemployment isn’t going to return to 5 percent for a long time.

Georgians did the Kansas thing a couple of years ago and instituted a hard constitutional limit on income taxes of 6 percent. It cannot go higher without amending the state constitution. What that means is that there’s no easy mechanism for the state to accommodate an extraordinary expense, like this, without somehow telling Republican reactionaries that they must raise taxes.

Those reactionaries are the ones who will be protesting in front of the statehouse Friday when businesses start to reopen.

If there’s no state order calling for businesses to be closed, the people who are unemployed can no longer claim that their unemployment is involuntary, even if it would be utter idiocy for them to return to work. A hairdresser or a massage therapist cannot maintain social distance. But they can certainly file for relief … unless the law says they can work.

“Gyms, fitness centers, bowling alleys, body art studios, barbers, cosmetologists, hair designers, nail care artists, estheticians, their respective schools & massage therapists.”

Not banks. Not software firms. Not factories. Not schools.

It is no coincidence that the businesses on this list are staffed by relatively poor people. Because that’s who he wants off the unemployment rolls. And if they die … well, they’re mostly black people, or Asian, and poor, and an acceptable political loss for a Republican governor.

The purpose of this isn’t to open up these businesses. It’s to get the workers there off the dole. Work, and die. Or don’t work … but you’re on your own. Because we can’t raise taxes to cover the time you spent trying to save your life and the lives of the people around you.

– George Chidi

George Chidi is a political columnist and public policy advocate

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