Hosting a collection of other local public officials Friday, 9th District congressman Steve Cohen led them in imploring Tennessee governor Phil Bredesen not to follow through on recent hints that the will turn down federal stimulus funds for extending unemployment insurance.
Challenging Bredesen to listen to his heart, Cohen said, Itll tell him whats the right thing to do. The congressman said the money in question, some $143 million, is destined for the purple hearts of this recession, that the disbursement of the funds would be temporary, targeted, and timely, and that if Tennessee doesnt use the money, itll be spent somewhere else.Not to take the funds, said Cohen, would be wrongsocially, morally, and economically. Drawing an implicit comparison to Southern officials of an earlier age, Cohen suggested that those Southern governors (few so far, and so far all Republican) who have declined to accept federal stimulus funds for the unemployed are acting in the tradition of Jim Crow, in the mold of former separatist-minded officials like the late Alabama governor George Wallace.
Asked if he would so characterize Bredesen in the same light, should the Tennessee governor also turn down the unemployment funds, Cohen declined to do so, but he said, It is odd that all of the governors whove turned down the money so far are Southerners. Southern governors arent the only ones who care about fiscal solvency.
State Rep. Jeanne Richardson addressed the concern stated by Bredesen, that accepting the unemployment funds would impose long-term obligations on Tennessee after the two-year term of their use expired, if unemployment totals should rise or continue at the present high level.
Thats perverse logic not to help people right now. You cant predict the future, Richardson said.
Others supporting Cohen in calling for Bredesen to accept the federal funds were city council chairman Myron Lowery, county commission chairman Deidre Malone, state Senator Beverly Marrero, state Representatives Richardson, Ulysses Jones, Larry Miller, and Joe Towns, and Memphis Labor Council official Howard Richardson.