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At the heart of the American Dream is the idea that hard work is supposed to pay off—that anyone who works a full time job should be able to make ends and achieve upward mobility over the course of their lives. As discussed in the most recent issue of Prosperity Watch, however, seismic shifts in the global economy away from manufacturing and towards services have pushed this dream further and further away from too many of North Carolina’s workers. See the latest Prosperity Watch for details.

Income inequality continues to be a hot issues in our state and national policy debate, as the highest earners continue to pull away from everyone else in terms of overall income growth. As the latest issue of Prosperity Watch lays out, the top 1 percent of earners have seen their income double over the past 25 years, while the bottom 99 percent have seen their incomes remain almost flat. See the latest issue for more details.

Earlier this month, the North Carolina Economic Development Board released a new strategic plan for creating jobs and growing the state’s economy over the next decade. The plan listed a number of admirable and important policy goals, including supporting innovation and entrepreneurship, promoting rural prosperity, and strengthening community-level opportunities for economic revitalization.

Unfortunately, last year’s tax cuts and budget cuts have greatly undermined the state’s ability to achieve these goals going forward.

In order to accommodate the $525 million in revenues lost to last year’s tax cut package and still balance the state budget, lawmakers made deep cuts to many core investments—including long-standing state support for nonprofits engaged in economic and community development work.  In the current biennium, the portion of the state budget responsible for these important initiatives—Commerce-State Aid—was cut by $38 million, a 64 percent reduction.

And even this overall reduction masks the true damage to the state’s ability to invest in meeting the new economic development objectives laid out in the strategic plan. The real damage comes from the specific initiatives that were singled out for cuts or outright elimination.

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Despite all the claims we keep hearing about the state’s supposedly miraculous economic recovery, too many regions across the state are still waiting for the recovery to happen.  The latest issue of Prosperity Watch digs into unemployment and job creation trends in the state’s metro areas and finds that the decrease in unemployment over the last year is almost entirely due to unprecedented drops in the labor force, not to the jobless moving into employment. See the latest issue for details.