Rick Scott, a man of no sympathy for “whiners who lost their little jobs” and try to access FL’s glitch-prone, crash-happy unemployment system

Former governor and current Republican U.S. Sen. Rick Scott of Florida. Official Senate portrait; U.S. Senate website.

Florida’s junior US senator is quite a guy–as he’d be the first to tell you. He’s worth over $250 million, and you’re not.

Rick Scott has no sympathy for these grasping whiners who lost their little jobs in the coronavirus pandemic and now have the gall to expect a government hand-out.

Who do they think they are: Boeing?

Scott sent a fundraising email on April 23rd to his well-connected and  richly-upholstered campaign donors complaining that, “Businesses looking to reopen are telling us their employees don’t want to come back to work because they collect more on unemployment.

Under Congress’s Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, these laid-off layabouts could theoretically get $600 a week to do absolutely nothing.

(Scott, of course, voted for CARES, but it pained him. Truly it did).

After all, $600 a week is lavish: enough to cover the rent, maybe the car payment, some ramen noodles, and a four-pack of tuna. You might have to let the health insurance slide, but there’s always the emergency room, right?

Most of the aid money is federal, but you have to apply though the state.

Problem is, the state system, to put it mildly, ain’t working.

You can’t get anyone on the phone; it can take a week to breach the online portal; and half the time, it crashes. Around 40 percent of those who somehow manage to fill in the forms discover they are supposedly ineligible”–even though they meet all the criteria.

To date, more than 1.8 million people have applied, but only about eight percent have received a check.

Now, who do you suppose we have to thank for what one Republican insider calls this “sh-t sandwich”?

Rick Scott.

Scott, you see, shelled out $77 million in taxpayer money for the glitch-prone, security-challenged, crash-happy, slow-as-Christmas CONNECT system. It never worked right. It wasn’t supposed to. As an adviser to Gov. Ron DeSantis (who’s been highly critical of CONNECT) recently told Politico, it was “designed” to fail.

The former governor, elected to the Senate by the skin of his capped teeth two years ago, signed legislation in 2014 requiring people trying to get that princely $275 a week in unemployment compensation to answer a 45-question “skills questionnaire” and prove they tried to get hired by at least five possible employers every week.

Many were rejected anyway, owing to some ill-defined charge of “misconduct.”

Scott, a person of limited imagination, thinks that if you’re poor it’s your fault—and your sorry bone-idle ways should not be rewarded with a handout.

Like many pols, including Donald Trump, he’s so thoroughly bought into his mythologized background he thinks he struck it rich entirely thanks to his own hard work and genius–instead of what we might describe as a certain ethical flexibility.

Trump talks about his “success” as if the money he got from his dubious daddy and the loans from the Bank of China and Deutsche Bank were incidental, as if he pulled himself up by his own bone-spur-friendly boot straps.

Scott talks about himself as if he were born destitute in a log cabin he helped build and split rails until he joined the Navy, founded the hospital chain Columbia/HCA, made money, and became governor of the Sunshine State.

In truth, his Navy career was remarkable only for the way he bought Cokes onshore and re-sold at hugely-inflated prices to his fellow sailors. At Columbia/HCA he presided over one of the largest healthcare frauds in history. He invoked the Fifth Amendment against self-incrimination 75 times; and he finally walked away with $300 million in stock and options–some of which helped him buy his way into the Florida Governor’s Mansion.

Like Trump, Scott equates money with intelligence and skill–and quite possibly divine favor.

Business über alles.

Those who pursue low-paid but intellectually-enriching fields are losers.

Public employees are losers. Teachers are losers.

When he was governor, Scott tried to force universities to push students into what he saw as lucrative careers in STEM subjects, instead of useless nonsense like anthropology, which should not be supported by state funds.

His own daughter majored in anthropology, but that’s different. She comes from money.

Scott invented all kinds of ways to torment what he saw as the Undeserving Poor. He undercut public health facilities. He tried to mandate drug testing for all state workers, who are among the lowest-paid in the nation.

He also thought it would be a grand wheeze to drug test welfare recipients–at their own expense. If they didn’t come out clean, they wouldn’t get their benefits.

Scott’s family happened to own a string of clinics which perform drug testing. What a coincidence.

Though he had allegedly gone to law school (SMU), Scott seemed to have never heard of the Fourth Amendment. The courts slapped him down.

Taxpayers still ended up paying $1.5 million in his legal fees.

In the midst of this deadly pandemic, Scott wants to underline the fecklessness of those who need public assistance and the way profligate Democrats enable them.

In a hysterical (not in the funny way) column for Fox News, Scott splutters that while decent American families stick to a budget, reusing tinfoil and “cutting their own grass,” Big Gubmint throws money to the unworthy.

He quotes Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois saying of the CARES Act: “if we err on the side of giving a hard-working family an extra thousand dollars or two thousand dollars because of our approach, so be it.”

Clutch those pearls! You taxpayers, who have shelled out a mere $133 million (so far) to pay for Donald Trump’s golf outings, should rise up and say this waste, fraud and abuse will not stand!

Rick Scott’s counting on you to be as wet-hen mad as he is. He’s running for president in 2024 and rage is all he’s got—rage and contempt.

Diane Roberts
Diane Roberts is an 8th-generation Floridian, born and bred in Tallahassee, which probably explains her unhealthy fascination with Florida politics. Educated at Florida State University and Oxford University in England, she has been writing for newspapers since 1983, when she began producing columns on the legislature for the Florida Flambeau. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, the Times of London, the Guardian, the Washington Post, the Oxford American, and Flamingo. She has been a member of the Editorial Board of the St. Petersburg Times–back when that was the Tampa Bay Times’s name–and a long-time columnist for the paper in both its iterations. She was a commentator on NPR for 22 years and continues to contribute radio essays and opinion pieces to the BBC. Roberts is also the author of four books, most recently Dream State, an historical memoir of her Florida family, and Tribal: College Football and the Secret Heart of America. She lives in Tallahassee, except for the times she runs off to Great Britain, desperate for a different government to satirize.