Commentary

Longtime Locke Foundation contributor debunks McCrory’s economic happy talk

Longtime John Locke Foundation contributor and N.C. State agricultural economist Mike Walden has thrown more cold water on the over-the-top claims of Gov. Pat McCrory and the conservative leadership of the General Assembly. Walden breaks with right-wing orthodoxy and confirms some of the main findings of analysts at the N.C. Budget and Tax Center in his latest report on the state’s economy by painting a less-than-rosy picture. John Murawski of Raleigh’s News & Observer reports:

N.C. State University economist Michael Walden’s biannual economic diagnosis for the state warns that much of North Carolina’s post-recession growth is bypassing the so-called “routine” middle-income vocations and exacerbating the state’s growing regional gap and income inequality.

Walden’s report, issued Monday, shows that the most dramatic job growth in the state has taken place at the extremes of the pay scale. The greatest gains have benefited the highest-paying bracket: professional and business services category, which gained about 138,000 jobs since February 2010. Next in line are jobs in the lowest-paying category: retail and transportation jobs, gaining about 114,000 jobs, and restaurant and hospitality, gaining about 82,000 jobs.

Closely tracking that trend are the regional winners and losers behind those job numbers. Charlotte and Raleigh “are in a class of their own,” Walden writes, with 20 percent employment growth since 2010. Asheville, Durham and Wilmington have grown between 10 and 15 percent in employment. But economically distressed areas like Burlington, Goldsboro, Greensboro, Hickory, New Bern, Rocky Mount and rural regions are still below their pre-recession employment levels.

“The routine jobs are much more being taken over by technology,” Walden said. “The changes in economic structure are really behind the regional disparities that we see….”

“What stood out to me is the slow rate of growth in this expansion,” he said.

The state’s economy has become a study in contrasts. Even as the state’s jobless rate is projected to drop to 4.4 percent in 2017, with urban economic engines revving up high-paying white-collar jobs, the number of people left behind is not shrinking. About 175,000 people in North Carolina had given up looking for work or were under-employed in 2007, and that total doubled by 2011 in the wake of the recession, but earlier this year those discouraged and underemployed workers still totaled more than 250,000 in the state.

The bottom line: Despite some good news in some areas, North Carolina is increasingly a state of “haves” and “have nots.” And while this trend is clearly influenced greatly by global economic trends, it’s also clear that we need much more from state leaders than the laissez faire/anti-government policies of the past six years that have bestowed ever greater benefits on people at the top and left everyone else to contend with the “genius” of the “free market.”
Commentary

125 days of not doing their jobs; Senators set new record of inaction on Garland nomination

Merrick GarlandThe U.S. Senate is setting a new record for inaction on a Supreme Court justice nomination this week. Today marks 125 days since President Obama submitted the name of Merrick Garland (pictured at left) to serve on the Court — a man that even conservative Republicans admit is beyond highly qualified. He has yet to receive even a hearing in the Judiciary Committee.

Now, more than four months later, the Court lists along with only eight justices — just as numerous other federal courts around the country try to get by without their full complements of judges as a result of conservative obstructionism in the Senate.

Richard Burr 2Here in North Carolina, we are, sadly, home to two of the chief obstructionists. Senator Richard Burr (at left) has not only refused to even address the Garland nomination in anything approaching a thorough way, he has been blocking nominees to the federal court in the state’s eastern district for a full decade now.

Meanwhile, Burr’s junior partner, Thom Tillis (lower left) made national headlines last weekThom Tillis (see the cartoon below) with his asinine comment that Senate consideration of judicial nominations has “nothing to do with us doing our jobs.”

The bottom line: North Carolina’s U.S. senators are not only not doing their jobs, they clearly don’t even understand what their jobs entail.

7-18-16 NCPW CARTOON

 

Commentary

Don’t miss next week’s luncheon with national consumer rights advocate Tom Feltner

Be sure to RSVP for the next NC Policy Watch Crucial Conversation luncheon:

Predatory payday lenders: Is North Carolina rid of them for good or will they make a comeback?

FeaturinNCPW-CC-2016-07-27-payday-tom-feltner2g Tom Feltner of the Consumer Federation of America

Register here

It’s been 15 years since North Carolina became the first state in the U.S. to end its experiment with “payday” lending by making the predatory high interest loans illegal and 10 years since the last businesses trying to evade the ban were finally chased off.

Payday loans, of course, carry 300+% APR interest rates, typically target low income neighborhoods and are designed to trap borrowers in debt that they cannot escape. The average payday borrower is trapped by ten transactions in a year.

Recently, the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) released proposed rules in an effort to rein in the worst abuses of payday and its close cousin, “car title lending,” in other states. Though these lenders no longer operate here, North Carolina still needs a strong national rule since predators will use a weak rule to seek a green light to come back into the state.

Come learn about this vital topic and the need for North Carolinians to speak up in the weeks ahead with national expert, Tom Feltner. Feltner is the Director of Financial Services at the Consumer Federation of America, an association of non-profit consumer organizations that was established in 1968 to advance the consumer interest through research, advocacy and education. At CFA, Feltner heads coalition building, policy development and advocacy in the areas of automobile insurance reform, high-cost lending and financial services regulation.

Don’t miss this very special event!

Register here

When: Wednesday, July 27, at noon — Box lunches will be available at 11:45 a.m.

Where: Center for Community Leadership Training Room at the Junior League of Raleigh Building, 711 Hillsborough St. (At the corner of Hillsborough and St. Mary’s streets)

Space is limited – pre-registration required.

Cost: $10, admission includes a box lunch.

Register here

Questions?? Contact Rob Schofield at 919-861-2065 or rob@ncpolicywatch.com

Commentary

Governor signs “Duke Energy Protection Act”

Coal ashIn case you missed it late last Friday, Governor McCrory gave final approval to a bill that purports to address the state’s coal ash crisis, but that environmental advocates are deriding as the “Duke Energy Protection Act.” The folks at the League of Conservation Voters have distributed this helpful response/summary this morning:

GOV. MCCRORY SIGNS “DUKE ENERGY PROTECTION ACT”

Former Duke employee shows his loyalty to former employer, not current constituents

RALEIGH (July 18, 2016): To no surprise, Governor Pat McCrory signed disastrous coal ash legislation into law late Friday afternoon, further stalling the cleanup of the state’s toxic coal ash mess. House Bill 630, more appropriately called the “Duke Energy Protection Act,” gives the utility monopoly even more time to leave poisonous coal ash waste in leaking pits. Every day that passes puts the health and safety of more and more North Carolinians at risk. Even more egregious, this bill undermines the more than 8,000 comments submitted by North Carolina citizens earlier this year urging leaders to remove all coal ash sitting near waterways and to label no community as low-risk.

“There are families across North Carolina who cannot drink their own well water because it’s contaminated with the cancer-causing chemicals found in Duke Energy’s coal ash,” said Dan Crawford, director of governmental relations for NC League of Conservation Voters. “Duke Energy had revenues of over $23 billion in 2015, yet Governor McCrory just signed a law that lets his former employer off the hook with a cheaper alternative and a longer timeline. If the water in the Governor’s Mansion were poisoned, I’ll bet Gov. McCrory wouldn’t get by on bottled water for three years, so why does he expect North Carolina citizens to do just that?”

Many North Carolinians have been subsisting on bottled water since the State of North Carolina notified them in 2015 that they should not drink their water.

“Unlike what Governor McCrory and Duke Energy want you to believe, this bill is no compromise,” continued Crawford. “Instead, it gives power back to Duke Energy, the reason for this toxic mess, to decide when or even if coal ash remains near our waterways. Clean, safe drinking water is a critical issue that should have been considered in its own legislation; it should not be grouped with a bill designed to protect the interests of Duke Energy. It is shameful that the McCrory administration continues to ignore the health of our people in favor of political back-scratching with a dirty polluter.”

Facts on House Bill 630

Read more

Commentary, News

Kasich rejects Cleveland police request to suspend “open carry” laws during GOP convention

Good grief. Has our societal obsession with guns gone so far that law enforcement must make a special request to suspend “open carry” laws around major events? One would have though the insanity of recent situations in which officers couldn’t tell snipers from “open carriers” would have taught us a lesson, but apparently not. Judd Legum of Think Progress filed the following report yesterday:

Ohio is an “open carry” state which allows gun owners to carry them in plain sight. People have been exercising this right around the site of the Republican convention…

Strangely, in the area around the convention, “tennis balls, metal-tipped umbrellas or canned goods” are prohibited. But AR-15s or other firearms are not.

But now, the Cleveland Police Union has made an emergency request to suspend open carry for the duration of the Republican convention.

“We are sending a letter to Gov. Kasich requesting assistance from him. He could very easily do some kind of executive order or something — I don’t care if it’s constitutional or not at this point,” Cleveland Police Union president Stephen Loomis told CNN.

The request may be related to the violence in Baton Rogue, where three police officers were killed today. (Loomis also blamed Obama for those shootings, saying he had “blood on his hands.”)

The request will put Governor Kasich in an awkward position. In general Republicans argue that open-carry laws are an important party of the right to bear arms and improve public safety. The research does not support this argument.

UPDATE JUL 17, 2016 3:03 PM

Governor Kasich, through a spokesperson, rejected the request from the Cleveland police. “Ohio Governors do not have the power to arbitrarily suspend federal and state constitutional rights or state law as suggested,” his spokesperson said.