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As North Carolina continues to recover from the Great Recession, growing more good-paying jobs in the state will require a skilled and educated workforce. As BTC analyst Cedric Johnson writes in the latest issue of Prosperity Watch, an increasing number of jobs are expected to require some level of postsecondary training, and meeting this workforce demand means that a growing number of the state’s public school students must exit the state’s education pipeline prepared to compete in a 21st century economy. And nowhere is this more important than among North Carolina’s lowest income public school students, a growing population that typically needs additional instructional supports to finish high school and enter the workforce fully prepared. See the latest Prosperity Watch for details.

 

For decades, policymakers and economists alike have all assumed that a growing economy automatically translates into increased prosperity and improved quality of life for a majority of citizens. This is the theory that “a rising tide lifts all boats.” As the American economy continues to transition in the 21st century, however, it is increasingly clear that economic growth by itself neither lifts all boats nor delivers the benefits to America’s working families that have long been promised.

In a point echoed by a recent BTC report, economic growth just isn’t enough—positive change in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) no longer translates into increased prosperity for all.

In fact, the opposite is true. As shown in the following charts developed by Demos, decades of economic growth have yielded little in the way of increased incomes for working families;

Personal_Income_Lags_Behind_Growth_1

…. or meaningful reductions in poverty.

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Folks interested in economic development policy should check out a new report released by the Budget and Tax Center today.  As discussed in the report, the state needs a fresh approach to creating jobs and growing the economy—an updated economic development strategy that fits the demands and challenges of the 21st century. At the heart of this new approach, the primary goal for the state’s economic development efforts should be achieving growth in median household income.

The fundamental challenge facing North Carolina’s economy in the first decades of the 21st century is how to replace rapidly vanishing jobs in declining manufacturing industries with jobs in growing industries that pay enough to allow workers and their families to make ends meet and achieve middle class prosperity.

To meet this challenge, the state should refocus its economic development goals to not just to promote “growth” for its own sake, but to ensure that as many people and regions as possible benefit from growth.  As a result, North Carolina should adopt an integrated, “all-of-the-above” approach to economic development, one that leverages the state’s existing assets and strategies—such as its top-notch research universities and regional clusters of thriving industries like pharmaceutical manufacturing—to support all types of business growth. This involves the expansion of existing businesses and the creation of new homegrown businesses, alongside strategies for attracting outside businesses to the state.

This involves fostering businesses in industry clusters that are not only expanding, but that also pay high wages and offer good benefits, and to target those efforts to the regions of the state that lagging behind.

Finally, a 21st century strategy requires 21st century ways of measuring whether that strategy is succeeding. As a result, policymakers need to use a broader range of indicators beyond economic growth— including median household income and poverty rates—that reflect changes in the standard of living and the ability of families to prosper in the 21st century.

For more details, see the report.

The government shutdown finally ended last week, but the fight for a balanced approach to the federal budget continues. As part of the deal struck last week, Congress agreed to negotiate a comprehensive budget agreement that addresses sequestration and opens the door for new revenues. Perhaps the best potential source of new revenues comes from reining in the special tax loopholes, deductions, and outright giveaways that allow too many corporations to avoid paying their fair share in taxes.

Over the last year, we’ve profiled some of these tax loopholes, along with the corporations that use them to avoid their responsibilities. This month’s issue takes a look at IBM, which earned $45 billion in profits over the past five yeas, and managed to shelter almost $20 billion of those profits in offshore bank accounts to avoid US taxation. As a result, Big Blue managed to lower its actual effective tax rate to 5.8 percent, well below the statutory corporate tax rate of 35 percent.

As long as corporations like IBM are able to avoid paying their taxes, the rest of us will be asked to pick up the tab for addressing our nation’s budget challenges through spending cuts to key investments that grow our economy and protect our most vulnerable.

For more details, see the profile on IBM.

In the latest issue of Prosperity Watch, Alexandra Sirota takes a look at food insecurity in North Carolina, and finds that far too many of our state’s residents don’t have enough food to eat. As a result, recent decisions by state government to temporarily halt critical food assistance programs due to the federal government shutdown placed thousands of families at risk of hunger–especially those living in rural North Carolina. See the latest Prosperity Watch for details.