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As we reflect on the 50 years since President Johnson waged a “War on Poverty,” it is important to also examine our public policy response to the more recent economic downturn that pushed many more Americans into poverty. The historic job loss of the Great Recession created a hardship deeper and more widespread than any previous modern recession, and recalled for many the Great Depression.

Yet policymakers’ response to growing poverty and countless struggling families across the U.S. was largely opposite that of the lessons learned from previous downturns.  Instead of pursuing robust stimulus spending to support struggling families or supporting job creation directly, policymakers opted for austerity.

Austerity is largely a term used to refer to European responses to the Great Recession but the American response took much the same tact. Policymakers dismantled investments in tools that have proven they can ameliorate families’ struggles for their most basic needs and maintain economic activity while the private sector recovers.  Austerity came to the United States in the form of lower-than-needed stimulus spending and spending cuts. Most recently, sequestration reduced government spending dramatically at a time when demand for services is high and the private sector has only reluctantly created jobs.

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The tax plan that North Carolina’s Senate leaders unveiled yesterday should not be mistaken for tax reform. It is, in reality, a plan to gut North Carolina’s schools, public colleges and universities, infrastructure, and other key state investments that promote long-run prosperity.

The plan’s massive tax cuts, which would mainly benefit large corporations and the wealthy, would cost the state $1.3 billion each year once fully in place, roughly the entire annual budget for North Carolina’s community colleges. Blowing such a massive hole in the budget would jeopardize the quality public schools, nationally-recognized public university system, and other assets that have attracted businesses — and jobs — to the state in industries like financial services and scientific research.

Other states that considered similar proposals this year backed off in part because of the reality that huge tax cuts for the wealthy must be paid for with untenable reductions in funding for schools and other state services, tax hikes on others, or both. The North Carolina Senate’s plan ignores that reality and opts instead for wishful thinking.

Claims that the Senate plan will cause North Carolina’s economy to boom are simply empty promises. Any boost from cutting income taxes will be canceled out by the spending cuts or tax increases the state will be forced to adopt to balance its budget.

Elimination of the corporate income tax is largely a giveaway to multistate corporations that — rather than creating jobs — will likely stick the savings in an out-of-state bank or use it to pay higher dividends to stockholders, most of whom don’t live in North Carolina.

The plan’s personal income tax cuts won’t likely create jobs, either. Most small businesses would get a tax cut so small that it wouldn’t even cover one worker’s salary. Plus, small businesses rely on state education, roads, and other services that would degrade year after year under this plan.

To ensure a bright economic future, North Carolina should focus on strengthening the K-12 and higher education systems that have set the state apart in the past but faced deep cuts in recent years due to the recession. Blowing a huge hole in the state budget would make that crucial task much harder. North Carolina has nothing to gain and much to lose from the Senate’s misguided plan.

REBUILDNC-1-FINAL1-1024x727In light of the inauspicious start to the New Year at the General Assembly – where proposals are already being considered that could be harmful to thousands of North Carolinians – Together NC is kicking off 2013 with a new social media campaign, urging the state’s newly elected legislators to help begin rebuilding North Carolina.

In the aptly named #RebuildNC campaign, Together NC will post on Twitter and Facebook about how North Carolina’s leaders must stop tearing down, underfunding, and underserving the state’s critical public investments

The campaign – with tweets and Facebook posts in the form of graphics, educational links, and quizzes – will lead up to the official inaugural events next weekend. Take a few minutes over these next 10 days to follow Together NC’s activity, re-tweet and share content from the Together NC social media accounts on your organization’s pages and your personal pages.

It’s time North Carolina’s lawmakers stop tearing down public investments – and start building them up instead. Make a simple New Year’s resolution to help guide lawmakers back to policies that will help #RebuildNC.

CHARLOTTE – Eric Henry arrived at the Democratic National Convention hoping to connect with some fellow business owners and organizations, and maybe help make some noise while they’re here.

“It takes large groups of loud voices to make sure we’re being heard,” Henry said.

At a convention where individuals seem to be paying close attention to the transparency of government and big businesses – from sustainable business practices to victims of foreclosure – Eric Henry’s plan to make a little noise about better policies for businesses, large and small alike, seems fitting. Henry owns TS Designs, a sustainable t-shirt company in Burlington, NC, that places equal emphasis on “people, planet and profit” and prides itself on transparency. The company’s website offers specifics on the source of their products and how they’re being produced, “from dirt to shirt.”

“Transparency does open you up to weaknesses… but it’s about gaining trust and showing your customers where your product and services come from,” Henry said. “So many businesses, there’s so much money and no transparency.”

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CHARLOTTE — Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC) looked to an unlikely source of inspiration when speaking to a crowd of business leaders at the Democratic National Convention on the importance of building sustainable businesses and communities. That source was his father — a preacher whom Rep. Clyburn credited with teaching him a lesson on how to approach the world of business, and how that business can serve its community and the greater good.

“Stewardship,” Rep. Clyburn said. Based on his father’s teachings, the Congressman learned the importance of responsibly managing one’s resources. Cleaning up the environment first and foremost, and becoming a more resourceful nation could make all the difference in leaving something better for the next generation.

“I believe we need to build a future for our children,” he said. “I believe, as my dad would say, that we need to provide good stewardship over our environment.”

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