Don’t miss today’s Charlotte Observer op-ed by BTC Director Alexandra Forter Sirota.

Updating our revenue system is something North Carolina needs to do anyway. The lasting impacts of the recession only make the issue a higher priority. To save jobs, this is something our state simply must do. Sirota writes:

More cuts – on top of the cuts from 2010, on top of still more cuts from 2009 – will further reduce the state’s capacity to serve communities and families, result in public- and private-sector job loss, and fail to set the state on a sustainable path to supporting long-term economic growth.

North Carolina’s policymakers must recognize that there is a choice to be made in the upcoming budget process. Choosing to make $3.7 billion in cuts will kick the problem further down the road. Choosing to reform the state’s revenue system would position North Carolina to weather future financial crises and ensure adequate support for public structures. Leading economists have found that it would be far less harmful to raise revenue than cut programs and services when trying to rebuild an economy.

For further reading, here are eight strategies we can use to close the budget gap.

Right and left alike should agree that a revenue system designed for a 1930 economy isn’t going to work in 2011. Preserving critical public structures preserves jobs, and that should be priority one.


Do you want to pay 27 percent more for your health insurance by 2019? No?

How about letting 4 million of your fellow North Carolinians go without the ability to get insurance?

If both of these prospects sound bad to you — as they do for most people — then you support the individual mandate contained in the Affordable Care Act, a new report from the Justice Center finds.

Some excerpts from the news release:

Undermining health care law would increase costs, put insurance coverage for 4 million North Carolinians at risk, new report finds
Today, NC GOP are hearing a bill on repeal of a key reform that reduces costs and protects millions

RALEIGH (Jan. 27, 2011) – On the same day that North Carolina Republicans are hearing a bill on repeal of the individual health insurance mandate in committee, a new report shows that the individual mandate will protect 4 million North Carolinians.

In addition to preventing millions from losing coverage, the individual mandate prevents health insurance premiums from rising 27 percent by 2019, the report says.

“The individual mandate will make insurance fairer and more affordable,” said Adam Linker of the NC Health Access Coalition, author of the report. “Repealing it would increase costs and put insurance coverage for 4 million North Carolinians at risk.”

The responsibility for most people to purchase an insurance plan is an important piece of health reform that makes it possible to ban the practice of denying insurance to people based on their medical history.

Approximately 4 million North Carolinians suffer from a pre-existing condition using insurance industry definitions used to reject applications or charge higher premiums, the report finds. Approximately 1.5 million North Carolinians suffer from a pre-existing condition severe enough to prompt an automatic rejection for coverage.

The individual mandate requires that everyone who can find affordable coverage purchase a policy. This helps cover the cost of care at emergency rooms, which must treat everyone regardless of ability to pay. It also keeps premiums affordable for everyone.


I don’t want this to get lost in the shuffle of a big news week: a new study from the DC-based Immigration Policy Center concluded yesterday that a path to legalization for undocumented workers would create jobs and boost the economy.

Not only do legalized workers earn more, spend more, and pay more in taxes, that increased consumer spending creates more American jobs. This is only the latest research to conclude that this is true — a 2009 study by the libertarian Cato Institute found the same thing.

The new research adds to another report from earlier in the month, which found that even less-skilled workers benefit from the presence of undocumented people. Without immigration, the study found, “less-skilled workers would also be forced to pay higher prices for food, medical care, and housing.”

We’ve talked a lot about the Dream Act as a small, common-sense reform that helps families. What we don’t often talk about is that creating a path to citizenship is also a jobs program for all Americans.


This morning, a coalition of more than 120 groups in North Carolina called on Gov. Beverly Perdue to preserve the state’s vital public investments. To do so requires addressing the state’s revenue crisis.

The Together NC coalition delivered a letter to governor urging her to show leadership by proposing a budget that takes a balanced approach, including revenue.

Read the letter here or in PDF format here. Read the news release here.


I have come to bury Sen. Tom Coburn (R – OK). I mean “bury” metaphorically, not the literal type of burial that happens to about 5,000 Americans a year due to food-borne illness.

Sen. Coburn doesn’t mind if those deaths — and the 76 million related illnesses — continue in America, because an outmoded ideology blinds him to facts.

This is a valuable cautionary tale, because it explains how that ideology creates the pro-salmonella faction in Congress.

See, on the U.S. Senate floor 2 weeks ago, Sen. Coburn said only 10 or 20 Americans a year die from a food-borne illness. This means, to him, that the government doesn’t need the power to recall the tainted food that poisons us because “not once in our history have we had to force anyone to do a recall.” (Both of these things are, of course, 100 percent false.)

New food safety policies that Coburn opposes, which would make us all safer, could come up for a vote tonight. The potential cost of preventing these illnesses — about $300 million — is prohibitively expensive, Coburn says.

This story interests me not just because of the facts, but because of what it says about far-right ideology more broadly.  Left unchecked, this anti-everything viewpoint can blind a person to lifesaving benefits of even the simplest and most common-sense policies.

It’s not just that the Centers for Disease Control, a bit more expert in the subject than Coburn, say 72 million Americans get sick a year, and thousands die, due to food-borne illness. It’s the productivity cost.

A study by Georgetown University found that the annual cost of food-borne illness in the United States is about $152 billion per year. Here in North Carolina, the cost is $4.5 billion. If there were an operational definition of cost-effective public investment, food safety would be the one.

The bottom line is this: making sure food is safe benefits everyone. We can do so in a cost-effective manner that saves considerable dollars every year. This is a perfect example of how we can promote the general welfare through wise policy choices — and its far from the only example.

Instead of burying 5,000 Americans per year, can we instead bury the ideology that says government can’t stop corporations from selling us tainted food?