South Carolina’s two U.S. senators, Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott, have never distinguished themselves as friends of working people. Each has consistently voted against legislation intended to advance economic security for working people in South Carolina and elsewhere and voted for legislation to benefit corporations and the wealthy, often at the direct expense of South Carolina’s workers and their families.
For example, in 2017 they voted for the Trump administration’s massive tax cuts for the wealthy, and in 2014 they voted against legislation that would have raised the federal minimum wage. Both have voted numerous times to eliminate the Affordable Care Act, which would strip more than 353,000 South Carolinians of their health insurance. In 2014 they also both voted against the Bring Jobs Home Act, which would have encouraged U.S. based companies to bring work currently done in other countries back to the United States. Both are on record in support of cutting Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.
That is only a small taste of these senators’ preferences for the agendas of the wealthy and corporations over those of working people. It is not surprising, therefore, that Scott has a lifetime score of 3 percent on the AFL-CIO’s ranking of senators’ support of working people’s issues, and Graham is not that much better with a 20 percent ranking. But Graham and Scott recently outdid themselves by holding up the Senate’s passage of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act because they wanted to make certain that working people did not receive what the two senators considered too much economic assistance.
Graham and Scott joined fellow Republicans Ben Sasse of Nebraska and Rick Scott of Florida in arguing that the bill’s provision that would pay low-wage workers up to $600 per week provides an incentive for people to prefer being laid off because it would provide them more money than they would earn if they were working. This is the argument that opponents of social protections like unemployment insurance and the minimum wage have made since those policies were initially adopted during the Great Depression in the 1930s. It rests on an ideological belief that workers should have to accept employment on whatever terms employers wish to offer, and it is hostile to the notion that all working people should be able to expect economic security and dignity in their jobs. It is also preposterous and disgraceful at this moment when so many businesses have shut down because of the public health crisis, and a record 3.3 million people have filed for unemployment benefits.
It is telling also that neither Graham nor Scott raised any questions regarding the bill’s $500 billion slush fund that is to be administered by the notorious investment banking firm Goldman Sachs, with limited government oversight. On the one hand, their concern that working people might get what they consider too much led them to hold up passage of this important bill and thereby risk delaying necessary response to the dual public health and economic crises. On the other hand, they saw no problem with giving half a trillion dollars to Goldman Sachs with basically no strings attached. Do we really need more evidence of where our two senators’ allegiances lie? Their lack of regard for, if not hostility to, the needs of working people in South Carolina and elsewhere is clear.
The South Carolina AFL-CIO stands firm and resolute in the conviction that our elected representatives must be responsive to the needs and concerns of the state’s working people over those of corporations and the wealthy. We want to put all our elected officials, and especially Senators Graham and Scott, on notice that we are watching and will not hesitate to call them out and challenge them when necessary.
Charles Brave, Jr. is the president of South Carolina AFL-CIO.