My uncle Pete works as hard as anybody I’ve ever met. He — like his father before him — has worked his whole life at a paper mill in Oregon City, Oregon.

Most men in my family have worked there at some point, and many of my friends’ fathers did too. It’s been a major employer for the little town I grew up in for as long as I can remember.

Until now. The mill’s closing, and 175 people are losing their jobs.

My uncle has been there almost 40 years. He’s supported his wife and kids (and other extended family) by working long, hard hours.

I don’t mean this to be a family sob story, because with unemployment the way it is, things are tough all over. Market conditions change, and economic realities come to certain industries. That’s just real.

Unfortunately, that means a lot of hardworking people who have spent decades at a trade find themselves in the lurch. When markets fail workers, that’s where public investments should come in.

This is exactly why we need programs that re-train workers. North Carolina’s community college system is a great example. My mom got her nursing degree from community college when she was in her 40s, filling a need for society while improving her own family’s station in life.

As she prospered, so did I. We both wound up being more productive, paying more in taxes, and thus paying more into the system for the next kid and his mom that needed to go to school.

But she wouldn’t have been able to access school without financial aid. Countless people with intelligence, drive, and determination are in the same situation. That’s why it’s so important to make sure people can access education: it helps them, and it helps America.

My mom also benefited from timing. None of these paper mill workers at my uncle’s shop asked for their industry to fundamentally change as they neared retirement age, or for their pension to disappear as their company declared bankruptcy.

These are hardworking people that played by the rules. Their stories are all too common across America today, and there but for fortune go any of us.

When we ignore situations like this, we not only harm families, we waste human capital that can build a better America. Folks like my mom and my uncle could do virtually any type of work and be successful.

Like most people in these situations, they’re not afraid of working hard. They just need  a chance.

Public investments like our community college system give people like this a chance. And we all deserve that.


A new report from the Budget & Tax Center explains in stark detail why cutting corporate tax rates is precisely the wrong strategy for North Carolina — not just for our schools and public safety workers, but for business too.

Turns out that more matters to business than marginal savings on taxes. Having an educated workforce, world-class public amenities and healthy communities matters.

Add this to the study from Iowa we talked about the other day, and you have a clear picture: we need a modern revenue system, not more shortsighted cuts.

Here’s the news release:

Report: Cutting corporate tax rate unlikely to boost economy, create jobs


There’s more to a good business climate than low taxes.

Look around at the states with rock-bottom tax rates — South Dakota, to name one example, or Alabama and Mississippi, for places closer to home. None of these places are as economically competitive as North Carolina.

North Carolina has built its economic engine around vibrant public investment. We have world-class universities that help workers educate themselves — and encourage bright, talented people to stay here. It’s why, even in bad times, we’re better off than states that take a different path.

A new study shows why. Cutting corporate tax rates is a counter-productive economic strategy.

There are about a dozen reasons this is true. The most compelling to me: public investments help attract business, and when you slash taxes, you have to cut services. A well-educated and healthy workforce is fundamental to business success, and those qualities require public investment.

That first link provides an able summary of the arguments. It’s based on this study from Iowa, which itself builds on decades of research. If you want to wade through the wonky study, it’s well worth it.

But just look around. North Carolina has been building for the future for years, and it has paid off. Let’s not undermine that progress now.


I’m sure much more will be said, in this space and elsewhere, about today’s 5th annual HK on J march on Raleigh. This is my third year, and it was the most well-attended and inspirational of the three.

But don’t take my work for it. This is a quick post to let you see the photos on our Flickr site (about 100 are there now, and more will be added there as they come in) and the Twitter posts that helped #hkonj become a trending topic in the area today. We’ll also be adding photos to Facebook.

If you did follow the #hkonj hashtag, you saw a bunch of other photos detailing the creative signs and puppets people made. If you didn’t, you can see all the photos we uploaded remotely here.

Let me also direct you to possibly the cutest and most poignant sight I saw, personally:

Thanks to everyone who made it out.


Ever notice that the folks who shout loudest about the Constitution are the least likely to have read it?

You can add Sen. Rand Paul to that list. Paul’s trying to slash funding for the Bureau of Indian Affairs and Indian Health Services. Not only are these two of the most underfunded federal agencies, providing vital services to vulnerable people, they carry out Indian treaty obligations backed by the Constitution itself.

Our nation’s guiding document is unambiguous on the question of Indian treaties: Article VI, Section II of the Constitution declares treaties to be “the supreme law of the land,” inviolable, a sacred trust.

Rand Paul wants to break that sacred trust, and violate a document he claims to venerate — over a few dollars owed to largely impoverished people.

Make no mistake, IHS does not have the funding needed to truly address the crises facing native people. American Indians are in poverty at twice the level of the general population. The health and wealth statistics for North Carolina — a state with the second-highest American Indian population east of the Mississippi — are even more sobering. So the answer is to … slash funding for what is in most cases the sole agency providing them health care?

There are those who don’t much care about the considerable challenges facing native people. This is, of course, monstrous. But you don’t have to care about a single other human being to see why Paul’s plan must be condemned in the strongest possible terms. Here’s the bottom line:

If you believe in the Constitution, you believe in upholding Indian treaties — and the responsibilities they confer on the U.S. government. Period. No wiggle room.

If Rand Paul follows through on these plans, it will prove that the U.S. Constitution is little more than a marketing strategy to him.