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Nice Work If You Can Get It | Mary Jo Melone

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Nice Work If You Can Get It | Mary Jo Melone

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Nice Work If You Can Get It
Tuesday, November 13, 2012 — Mary Jo Melone

Florida unemployment offices are not cushy places. The chairs are hard. The walls are barren. Desperation hangs in the air. So many people want to hunt for jobs online -- some can’t afford computers at home — that waiting for one is not uncommon.

The message is clear: The state doesn’t want you to get all comfy in the unemployment office, doesn’t want to make it all that easy to get benefits. After all, you are almost certainly undeserving and, if you can swing it, would prefer to hang around the house all day watching YouTube videos and eating Fritos.

Why, here in Florida, we aren’t even supposed to call them “unemployment benefits” now, because, undeserving as you are, you might begin to think you are getting paid not to work. Gov. Rick Scott insists on calling the weekly pittance, $275 max, “re-employment benefits,” as if a word will keep your lazy mind focused on the task: getting a job.

And who better to understand this than Hunting Deutsch?

Scott hired him this year to head what the governor refuses to call the Department of Labor. The governor prefers the term Department of Economic Opportunity, and it certainly has been that for Deutsch.

Before getting the job, Deutsch received an undisclosed amount of unemployment benefits for an undisclosed amount of time between 2009 and 2011, according to the Florida Current, a Tallahassee online publication focused on nonpartisan coverage of state policy and politics.

You’re supposed to receive Florida benefits for only 23 weeks now, and you must prove that you’re looking for work while slurping from the public trough. Yet Deutsch, a former bank executive whose job was managing other people’s millions, spent his time unemployed cashing in his bank stocks and taking his family repeatedly to Europe.

I thought there had to be a reasonable explanation for Deutsch’s reported payout from the state. And surely Rick Scott would not be so clueless as to hire a man who has the word “undeserving” written all over him.

But no, Deutsch told the Current. “Quite frankly, [I] didn’t have to work.”

So maybe Deutsch used his unemployment benefits to tip the doormen at the Ritz on the Place Vendome in Paris.

Now I get it. Deserving your jobless benefits depends on whether you pass your time while unemployed scarfing Fritos or sipping ancient wines recommended by the Ritz sommelier. There’s low-class laziness and high-class laziness, I suppose.

Deutsch told the Current that his years unemployed gave him “an extraordinary perspective” on what it’s like to be out of a job, applying for benefits and then finding a new job, particularly one that the public pays for. The job has only one drawback, as best as I can tell. You can’t go to Paris so often.

Mary Jo Melone, former columnist with the Tampa Bay Times, is a writer in Tampa. She can be reached at maryjomt@tampabay.rr.com.

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