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Scott Lemieux of The Guardian has written a fine article about yesterday’s horrific murder-suicide tragedy in Virgina that’s worth your time. Here’s one of the best parts:

“It is true – as apologists for the status quo will be sure to point out – that it is impossible to know whether today’s murder specifically could have been prevented by a more stringent gun control regime, let alone by one characterized exclusively by background checks. But on a more systematic level, the result of our lack of substantive, internationally comparable gun control is entirely clear: the US is not only an international outlier in its lack of gun control, it is also a massive outlier in terms of firearm violence. The ease of access to firearms clearly causes large numbers of unnecessary deaths by homicide, suicide, and accident.

Thus, the staggering human toll of gun violence in the US is not just a random coincidence; it is the result of political choices.

Which policies could reduce the huge number of mass killings in the US are not a mystery: after 35 people were killed in Tasmania in 1996, Australia’s conservative government enacted sweeping gun control measures. The result was that both homicides and suicides by gun were immediately and sharply reduced, and there have been no mass killings in the country since. Conversely, there have been 885 mass killings in the United States since December 2012, when a gunman killed 20 elementary school students at the Newtown Elementary School in Sandy Hook, Connecticut.”

Meanwhile, Ezra Klein has more on Vox about some of the lessons we might glean from the Australian experience.

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A one-time, $750 “bonus.” That’s what most North Carolina state employees will get as a “pay increase” as a result of the new budget deal at the General Assembly. That’s about $10 per week after taxes.

Not much, we know, but if the state Senate has its way, such a “raise” may soon seem downright extravagant. That’s because the new constitutional amendments the Senate has proposed to place on the state ballot next year would actually make such a “raise” all but impossible.

As this morning’s lead editorial in Raleigh’s News & Observer explains thoroughly, the so-called “Taxpayer Bill of Rights” or “TABOR” would all but end state government’s ability to address the needs of the citizenry — much less provide meaningful raises to public employees. Indeed, even with this year’s pathetic pay bonus, spending will actually exceed the limits that TABOR would put permanently in place.

As the N&O editorial  puts it:

“It’s absolutely astonishing that despite the failure of TABOR in Colorado, stubborn state Senate Republicans have pushed on with it, almost defiantly ignoring common sense and the business community. Why have many other states considered it and then reconsidered it? Because, after that first flush of thinking it’s a great conservative idea and run-on issue, cooler heads realize it hasn’t worked.”

Let’s hope the cooler heads emerge and take charge here in North Carolina very soon.
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As state leaders deride the unemployed as lazy good-for-nothings and slash their insurance benefits, the news about finding a job job remains discouraging for a large swath of North Carolinians. Here’s the latest sobering news about the “Carolina Comeback” from economist Patrick McHugh:

“Unemployment is still a major problem in North Carolina. The headline unemployment rate has inched up from 5.3% to 5.9% since the beginning of the year, but that still doesn’t tell the whole story. When people who have been forced out of the job market since the Great Recession by a lack of job openings are included, the actual unemployment rate is still in double digits, almost twice what is commonly reported. This gap between the official unemployment rate and the reality on the ground can skew the policy conversation, making it look like the good times are back when that’s not really the case.

The US economy has improved since facing down the prospect of complete collapse a few years ago, which has buoyed employment prospects in North Carolina. However, any talk of a complete recovery is grossly overstated. There are likely more than 230,000 North Carolinians who would like to work, but don’t show up in the official figures. When those “missing workers” are included, the total tally of North Carolinians who can’t find a job rises past half a million. Read More

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[This post has been updated to correct a duplicate link.] The gun insanity continues. Another average morning, another whirlwind of horrific stories about innocent people in and around us dying (or having their lives endangered) senselessly because criminals and crazy people have easy access to killing machines:

Meanwhile,  the chief defender and enabler of the terrorists around us — the gun lobby — goes merrily about its business, buying our politicians and undermining our democracy.