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In remarks at Monday’s economic forecast forum, a number of speakers sought to take credit for enacting policies in 2013 that they believe have contributed to big drops in the unemployment rate since last January, an idea that has been repeated in recent business news reports. Unfortunately, as much as we all want to make progress reducing North Carolina’s persistent joblessness, we’re still waiting for a jobs recovery to actually happen.

The unfortunate reality is that the unemployment rate may have fallen due to mathematical quirk in how it’s calculated, but unemployment itself still remains high due to anemic job creation and a contracting labor force.

Perhaps the most problematic claim involves the mistaken notion that the General Assembly’s deep cuts to unemployment benefits that took effect in June somehow spurred an impressive reduction in unemployment in the following months. According to this view, the “employment effect” associated with cutting unemployment benefits forces workers to find jobs that they otherwise would not have accepted because the wages of those new jobs pay less than what their old jobs paid. And since the unemployment rate has gone down, proponents of these cuts have argued that the employment effect must have worked in just this way.

There is a serious problem with this idea—it assumes that unemployed workers who lost their benefits in June went out and found jobs in August through November, a claim that just doesn’t bear up under serious scrutiny.

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In recent months, we’ve been hearing a lot from legislative leaders about how much the state’s economy has “improved” over the past couple years. Unsurprisingly, it turns out that much of this improvement never happened.

As seen in the latest issue of Prosperity Watch, North Carolina still has higher unemployment and lower shares of employed people than the national average–a trend that has remained consistent since 2011 and has actually gotten worse in 2013.  See the latest Prosperity Watch for details.

Greensboro presser

Allan Freyer at Greensboro event

As details continued to emerge throughout the day about a possible short-term Federal budget deal for 2014 and 2015, it became increasingly clear that the deal represents a missed opportunity for a long-term resolution to our nations’ budget challenges and a bad deal for America’s workers. Although completing any deal is a step in the right direction after two years of partisan gridlock and the recent government shutdown, this deal just doesn’t go far enough—it fails to replace a majority of the sequestration spending cuts and does not include any new tax revenue. As a result, this mini deal represents a big missed opportunity.

This was the message sent by a crowd of workers, families, and advocates that gathered in Greensboro this morning for an event calling on their federal elected representatives to finish the job and replace sequestration in its entirety with new revenues raised by closing corporate tax loopholes. Across-the-board sequestration spending cuts are harming North Carolina, advocates said, and without new revenue, North Carolinians will continue to be hit hard by spending cuts to core initiatives like education, job training, and healthcare.

“This emerging deal represents a missed opportunity. Congress has one last opportunity to prevent damaging cuts to investments that help struggling families and a struggling economy,” said Allan Freyer, Policy Analyst with the Budget & Tax Center, a project of the NC Justice Center. “We are calling on North Carolina’s federal lawmakers to do the right thing and support closing corporate tax loopholes so that we can make the investments needed to support North Carolina families and end gridlock on the federal budget.”

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When Thanksgiving rolls around, no one wants to watch someone else eat all the turkey and then have to pick up the grocery bill all by themselves. But that’s what’s happening in our nation’s budget debate—highly profitable multinational corporations are using special tax loopholes, credits, deductions, and outright giveaways to avoid paying their fair share of taxes while asking the rest of us to pick up the tab for fixing our nation’s budget challenges through spending cuts to key investments that help grow the economy. Even worse, at a time when many families will be celebrating their Thanksgiving blessings or sharing those blessings with less fortunate friends and neighbors, many in Congress are trying to protect these tax loopholes while simultaneously cutting federal food assistance for hungry families.

That’s why N.C. Policy Watch and the N.C. Budget and Tax Center are continuing to shine a light on corporate tax dodging. In recent years, corporate profits have neared record highs while corporate tax collections are at a 30-year low, so now is the time to raise new revenues, rather than asking hungry families to bear the brunt of addressing our nation’s budget challenges. And an excellent source of new revenues involves the billions of dollars in corporate tax loopholes, deductions, credits, and outright giveaways that allow too many multinational corporations to avoid paying their fair share of taxes. So instead of giving all the turkey to profitable corporations and asking the rest of us to foot the bill, let’s ask these profitable companies to pay their fair share for Thanksgiving dinner.

To underscore this message, N.C. Policy Watch and the N.C. Budget and Tax Center are continuing to profile a number of corporate tax avoiders with strong connections to North Carolina (Click here to read previous profiles of Duke Energy, Merck & Co. and International Paper).

And keeping with the holiday theme of food, this month, we’re focusing on the highly profitable fast food giant Yum! Brands, revealing the following:

  1. the size and scope of their businesses,
  2. the taxes they have avoided paying in recent years, and
  3. the methods they use to accomplish this.

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Word on the street in our nation’s capital is that prospects for a short-term budget deal may be brightening for a package that funds the federal government and replaces some or all of the sequestration spending cuts for 2014. As budget negotiators continue to work on some kind of bipartisan deal, a recent opinion survey conducted by Hart Research Associates may have a lot to say about what this still nascent deal looks like—specifically, the overwhelming popularity of raising new revenues by closing corporate tax loopholes.

Here are some of the poll’s most important findings:

  • Americans overwhelmingly support a budget that raises new tax revenues over a plan that relies solely on spending cuts to address our nation’s fiscal challenges.  Specifically, 58 percent support a budget that increases tax revenue from the wealthy and corporations, while only 36 percent support a budget that does not increase taxes on any American—a 22-point advantage for raising new tax revenues.
  • And by significant margins, Americans see closing tax loopholes for profitable corporations as the best way to raise those revenues, especially in contrast to a plan that doesn’t raise any revenues at all.  Specifically, 67 percent of Americans favor a budget that closes corporate tax loopholes and limits tax breaks for the wealthy, and only 28 percent support a budget that does not increase taxes on any American
  • Healthy majorities support replacing at least half of the sequestration spending cuts with new revenues from closing corporate loopholes.  Specifically, 53 percent support reducing the spending cuts by half and replacing them with new tax revenue from the wealthy and corporations, and only 27 percent want the cuts to go fully into effect—a 26 percent advantage for new revenues.

And support for new revenues spikes even higher when it comes to closing the most egregious tax loopholes, like those that promote shipping American jobs overseas or that those allow hedge fund managers to pay lower taxes than middle class families:

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