How’s this for a terrifying storyline? California’s far-left government colludes with the Biden administration to bail out striking Hollywood actors — all on the American taxpayer’s dime.
But this isn’t fiction. It’s happening right now.
Congress needs to call “Cut!” on this horror show.
Here’s the backstory. California’s ultra-liberal leaders are on the verge of giving unemployment payments to striking Hollywood actors and writers.
Both houses of the legislature passed a bill to that effect this week.
It only needs Gov. Gavin Newsom’s signature.
But there’s a plot twist. The actors and writers aren’t unemployed. They still have jobs.
They’re just choosing picket lines over paychecks.
Unemployment payments are designed for the actual unemployed, not union members who would rather yell than work.
This is a blatant abuse of the safety net for the sake of well-connected liberal pals.
Another plot twist: California’s unemployment-insurance trust fund is already broke.
It became insolvent during the pandemic, and it’s been taking out low-interest loans from the federal government ever since.
The loans are designed to give states time to pass reforms and refill their trust funds. But California refuses to do that.
The Golden State owes Washington, DC, $18 billion — yet instead of paying it back like every other state has done, California is deliberately deepening the fiscal hole.
Once again, the plot thickens. The federal government is supposed to hold states accountable and stop them from pulling stunts like this.
The secretary of labor has to personally approve a state’s request for more federal loans.
California’s demand for endless federal money deserves rejection on obvious grounds.
Yet the Biden administration’s acting secretary, Julie Su, is siding with California and sticking it to taxpayers.
Maybe it’s because the villains of this story know each other.
Su worked in Newsom’s administration. Not only did she supervise the state’s unemployment program — she oversaw $32 billion in fraudulent payments during the pandemic.
She showed no interest in protecting taxpayers then. She shows zero interest now.
(It’s one reason the Senate still hasn’t confirmed her as secretary, months after President Joe Biden nominated her.)
Every American taxpayer is on the hook.
Regardless of whether California bails out striking Hollywood actors, we’re still sending billions of dollars to pay for the state’s own foolish decisions.
California could easily clean up its mess and put money back in its unemployment trust fund.
But the state’s liberal leaders would rather milk taxpayers in fiscally responsible states.
The pain is even worse in California itself.
When states don’t pay back their unemployment loans, the federal government ratchets up taxes on job creators, in an attempt to force states to get serious about repayment.
These higher payroll taxes are already being implemented, and if they aren’t stopped, even more businesses will leave the Golden State.
California’s leaders have a duty to save small businesses from this burden.
Instead, their biggest concern is bailing out Hollywood with other people’s money.
Is there a hero in this frightening story?
Not in California’s far-left government, nor in the bailout-happy Biden administration.
But there could be in Congress, where Republicans should be sick of watching this farce.
Congress is in the middle of spending negotiations for 2024.
Republicans should rally around a simple reform: no more federal loans for broke states that keep expanding unemployment payments.
Under this commonsense policy, California would be cut off from more federal loans the moment it gives unemployment payments to striking Hollywood workers.
States that don’t pay down their debts don’t deserve another cent from taxpayers.
The time to act is now. California and the Biden administration are going to keep this horror show going as long as they can, bailing out their friends in Hollywood at everyone else’s expense.
The sooner Congress yells “Cut!” the better.
Brian Sikma is a senior fellow for unemployment insurance and workforce issues at the Foundation for Government Accountability.