Joe Biden hails Julie Su as a “tested and experienced leader” and has tapped her for Labor Secretary, subject to confirmation by the Senate. The hearing gives senators a chance to expose Su’s leadership of California’s Labor and Workforce Development Agency (LWDA) which oversees the Employment Development Department (EDD) responsible for unemployment claims.
On Su’s Watch the EDD sent more than $31 billion in fraudulent unemployment claims to people in California, out of state, and even out of the country. In 2020 alone, Su confirmed, fraudsters stole at least $11.4 billion in California unemployment benefits. As it happens, fraud was not a new problem at the EDD.
As California’s state auditor reported, “EDD had no comprehensive plan for how it would respond if California experienced a recession and UI claims increased accordingly.” Su had failed to modernize outdated EDD technology, and in the early days of the pandemic relaxed eligibility requirements for EDD claims. Criminals took full advantage.
The state approved more than $140 million for at least 20,000 prisoners. Convicts who made fraudulent claims included convicted murderers Scott Peterson and Cary Stayner. Death row inmates accounted for at least 158 claims landing more than $420,000 in benefits.
Inmates used their real names, fake names and fake Social Security numbers. One convict filed a claim under the name “poopy britches,” but Fontrell Antonio Baines of Memphis, Tennessee, took it to another level. The rapper obtained debit cards pre-loaded with unemployment benefits administered by the California Employment Development Department, issued in the names of third parties and victims of identity theft.
Baines, also known as “Nuke Bizzle,” posted a video titled “EDD,” bragging about “my swagger for EDD,” as a second rapper says “You gotta sell cocaine. I just file a claim.” And as Nuke Bizzle explains, “I done got rich off EDD. . .I just might swipe me a lump sum. I’m in Dior havin’ money fun. . . Ten cards, I’m swiping 10K a day. Counting up bills like a CPA.”
Prosecutors accused Roseville, California, woman Andrea Gervais of filing 100 fake unemployment claims, including one in the name of California Sen. Dianne Feinstein. While this massive fraud carried on unchecked, legitimate claimants waited months to collect the benefits they deserved.
“There is no sugar coating the reality,” Julie Su told reporters. “California did not have sufficient security measures in place to prevent this level of fraud.” Su did not explain what security measures she failed to put in place and to what extent Julie Su was responsible for the fraud. Su also failed to take effective action to recover the stolen funds and saddled her successors with the task. Incompetence and unaccountability aside, Su boasts other experience Joe Biden might find useful.
Julie Su also served as California Labor Commissioner and supported Assembly Bill 5, a frontal assault on workers’ independence. The measure primarily targeted independent truckers and rideshare drivers but there was more to it. AB5 limited freelance writers, photographers and videographers to 35 submissions per publication, per year. Independent musicians also took a hit.
Trumpeter Joe Mazzaferro protested that AB5 had already reduced his band’s pay. “I feel like it’s our right to work as we choose,” the bandleader told the Sacramento Bee. Julie Su didn’t think so, and Gov. Gavin Newsom budgeted $20 million for AB5 enforcement.
In the throes of the pandemic, 153 California economists and political scientists signed an open letter, urging immediate suspension of AB5. “By prohibiting the use of independent contractor drivers, health care professionals, and workers in other critical areas,” the experts explained, “AB5 is doing substantial and avoidable harm to the very people who now have the fewest resources and the worst alternatives available to them.”
Gov. Newsom, who had already taken on emergency powers, said there was no chance he would suspend the measure, even on a temporary basis. Californians could be forgiven for calling it the most anti-worker law ever passed in the state or nation. For his part, Joe Biden was “glad the California legislature passed AB5.” That invites a look at another Biden pick for a key federal position.
Joe Biden’s nominee for Comptroller of the Currency in the U.S. Treasury Department was Saule Omarova. A native of the Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic, Omarova attended Moscow State University on a Lenin Scholarship. In the best Leninist-Stalinist style, Omarova wanted to end independent banks as a class, and put the Federal Reserve in charge of every American’s money.
Such centralization would essentially replicate banking in the Soviet Union, a regime Omarova still praises. Based on her record, Sen. Tim Scott could think of nobody “more poorly suited to be the Comptroller of the Currency” than the Lenin scholar Biden wanted.
Biden now wants Julie Su, who enabled more than $30 billion in unemployment fraud and ducked all responsibility. The failed bureaucrat is apparently unaware that people have a basic right to earn a living as independent writers, editors, truckers and countless other jobs.
According to Joe Biden, “Julie is the American Dream.” To find out what others are thinking, the senators should bring in workers who suffered substantial harm under AB5. Let fraudsters explain how easy it was to score big bucks on Su’s watch. Bring in Nuke Bizzle, or just play his EDD video.
For her current position as deputy labor secretary, Julie Su squeaked by 50-47. This time, as Trump likes to say, we’ll have to see what happens. At this writing, no date has been set for the confirmation hearing.
Photo: AP/Rich Pedroncelli