Commentary

Unauthorized immigrants v. millionaires: Remarkable numbers on who pays more in taxes

The next time your immigrant-bashing relative or neighbor lays a line on you about those “mooching, good-for-nothing ‘illegals,'” take a moment to inform him or her of the powerful facts in the chart and text below. As the good folks at Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy explained earlier this week:

“Unauthorized immigrants pay a larger share of their income in state and local taxes than the nation’s top earners, and immigration reform would improve state and local finances across the country, a new report from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) finds….

Unauthorized immigrants pay sales taxes when they buy goods and services, property taxes (mostly passed along through their rent), and income taxes when employers withhold them from their paychecks — even those who don’t file income tax returns, although between about half and three-quarters do.

Among ITEP’s key findings:

  • Unauthorized immigrants paid about $11.7 billion in state and local taxes in 2014.
  • They pay about 8 percent of their income, on average, in state and local taxes, significantly higher than the 5.4 percent that the average taxpayer in the top 1 percent pays. (See chart.)
  • Comprehensive immigration reform would further boost the state and local taxes that these immigrants pay by allowing them to come out of the shadows and work legally. ITEP estimates that granting lawful permanent residence to all unauthorized immigrants who are now in the country would lift state and local tax collections by about $2.2 billion a year and raise the effective state and local tax rate that these unauthorized immigrants pay to about 8.6 percent from about 8 percent.”

Of course, the remarkable truth revealed in this study is also the case when it comes to poor and middle class native born Americans — both of whom pay more of their incomes in taxes than the billionaire plutocrats like those who inhabit the Trump junta and even many of the conservative, upper-middle class burghers who run the North Carolina General Assembly.

The bottom line: Keep these facts handy and don’t let conservatives get away with their mythology about who pays for government in our country and the supposedly “terrible tax burden” that impacts Americans (and North Carolinians) of wealth.

Commentary

Two new “must reads” on the death penalty (Video)

Kristin Collins of the Center for Death Penalty Litigation has two new “must read” posts on the Center for Alternatives to the Death Penalty blog.

The first highlights the outrageous story of Duane Buck — a man whom the state of Texas has been trying to execute for two decades even though his original death sentence was based in part on the testimony of an “expert” that Buck was more dangerous to society because he is black. Remarkably, it took 20 years and unceasing efforts of Buck’s lawyers to get this blatantly racist sentence overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court two weeks ago. As Collins notes:

“The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Buck’s case is the latest in a series of decisions condemning racism in death penalty trials. Last year, the court overturned the death sentence of Timothy Foster after evidence showed prosecutors had purposefully removed African-Americans from the all-white jury that decided his sentence. Foster was one of three high court decisions in the past decade condemning the pervasive practice of striking black jurors from death penalty cases.

Despite the Supreme Court’s clear messages, states – including North Carolina – can’t seem to accept that death sentences tainted by racism are illegal.

In Texas, the state fought to execute Buck for two decades. And in North Carolina, the state continues to push for executions despite clear evidence that black jurors have been illegally denied the right to decide life-and-death cases.

An exhaustively-researched, peer-reviewed study found that, in capital trials between 1990 and 2010, qualified black jurors were more than twice as likely as whites to be struck  by N.C. prosecutors.”

Collins goes on to explain the tragic fact that North Carolina’s repeal of the Racial Justice Act has only made cases like Duane Buck’s more likely in our state.

The more hopeful of the two articles highlights a new video from the Center for Death Penalty Litigation (see below) that was released recently in the aftermath of a Wake County jury’s decision to reject efforts of prosecutors to impose the death penalty on a man named Nathan Holden.

It has been nearly a decade since a Wake jury agreed to send a person to death row, and that’s not for prosecutors’ lack of effort. They have now tried and failed to get the death penalty seven times in a row.

How many times will Wake prosecutors have to hear the word “No” before they stop wasting their efforts seeking the death penalty, which adds greatly to the expense of a trial? It’s clear that Wake citizens no longer believe the death penalty is necessary to punish even the worst crimes, not when life without parole is the alternative.

Let’s hope the answer is “not much longer.”

CDPL: Public Safety Experts Condemn the Death Penalty from rhonda klevansky on Vimeo.

Commentary

Rowan County Commissioner “jokes” about lynching then issues public apology

Rowan County Commissioner Greg Edds

Rowan County Commissioner Greg Edds

Wow. Just wow.

One wonders if the conservative crusaders against so-called “political correctness” will rally to defend this very troubled politician’s disgusting/outrageous statement. Reporter Josh Bergeron of the Salisbury Post has the story:

Commissioner Chairman Edds apologizes for lynching joke

Rowan County Commissioners Chairman Greg Edds publicly apologized Monday for a lynching joke he made one month ago during a Landis Board of Aldermen meeting.

Just before the county commissioners were scheduled to enter a closed session, Edds asked them to pause the regularly scheduled meeting as he delivered a prepared apology.

One month earlier, he made a joke about lynching when referring to the size of a crowd at the Landis meeting.

“Without question, I understand that that word brings significant pain to people in our community, especially to my friends and neighbors in our African-American community,” Edds said. “In our political climate, I think we would all agree that our society has become increasingly sensitive and, oftentimes, is too quick to be offended. This, however was not one of those times. That word was hurtful. It was simply not the word I was looking for. I made a huge mistake, and I’m very sorry.”

Edds was apologizing for a comment he made on Feb. 7 before presenting the Rowan County Declaration of Interdependence to the Landis aldermen. In Monday’s speech, he said the February comment came after a person attending the Landis meeting compared the crowd and the mood to the wild West. The crowd was standing room only.

“I walked in and asked the gentleman at the door, ‘Is there going to be a lynchin’ tonight — be a hangin?’ This is a good group. So I think last time I was around a group this big we had a hangin’ afterward,” he said in the early February meeting. (Emphasis supplied.)

However sincere the apology, this kind of hateful language is simply not acceptable — especially from an important elected official. The man may feel sincerely bad about the remark and may well have learned something, but there really need to be some kind of consequences for him beyond a little bad publicity.

Commentary

The best editorial of the weekend

Image of UNC symbolThere were several fine editorials in the state’s major newspapers over the weekend. The Charlotte Observer rightfully called for the resignation of the nation’s Attorney General in light of the blatant perjury in which he engaged during his confirmation hearing. Both the Winston-Salem Journal and Greensboro News & Record lauded Governor Roy Cooper’s education budget proposal and the Faytteville Observer panned the idea that vouchers and charters can solve the state’s K-12 problems. Meanwhile Raleigh’s News & Observer blasted Congressman George Holding for failing to hold any town hall meetings during his congressional break and instead spending it on an overseas junket.

What may have been the best editorial of  the weekend, however, appeared in Sunday’s Wilmington Star-News. In “UNC legal centers help students and clients,” the paper derided efforts by right-wingers on the UNC Board of Governors to silence the UNC Law School’s Center for Civil Rights. In defending the Center, the editorial noted that:

“In 2001, for example, the Center intervened on behalf of the town of Navassa to block plans for a massive corporate trash dump nearby. The challenge was successful, plans for the dump were dropped, and an elementary school was put on the site.

The center has argued before the state Supreme Court on behalf of people wrongly sterilized by the state under the old Eugenics Commission.”

The editorial concludes by debunking the claim of some conservatives that university centers shouldn’t be engaged in litigation:

“The Governors, presumably, would not object to law students working as interns in big law firms, pushing paper on behalf of giant corporate clients.

If this no-lawsuit policy is adopted, a lot of folks who can’t defend themselves will have no defense at all. Few private lawyers will have the time to take on these often-complicated cases.

Do we want the best court system that money can buy? Or do we want one that dispenses justice?

Forget this misbegotten motion and let law students help the poor folks and gain great academic experience along the way.”

Exactly. As was noted last week over on the main NC Policy Watch site: the Center “is about expanding rights and serving the powerless – all while educating and empowering students to bust the prevailing image of lawyers in our society.” That is precisely what our law schools ought to be doing.

Commentary

GOP lawmakers pushing another “you can’t make this stuff up” power grab

Rep. Justin Burr

Rep. Justin Burr

It’s beginning to look as if there are, literally, no bounds to the extent to which North Carolina Republican lawmakers are willing to go in their never-ending quest to repeal the 20th century and seize all political power in the state for themselves. At times, the proposals are so utterly outrageous and downright preposterous that they read like rejected headlines for the satirical online publication, The Onion.

The latest comes from a 31 year-old bail bondsman/state representative from Stanly County named Justin Burr. Rep. Burr introduced a bill yesterday that would — we are not making this up — remove the long-accepted executive power of the Governor to fill vacancies on the state District Court (that’s main trial court in the North Carolina courts system) and transfer those power to — you guessed it — the legislature. If the legislature is not in session when a vacancy occurs, the duty falls to — surprise, surprise, surprise!  — the Senate President Pro Tem and the House Speaker. This is apparently not intended as a joke on Burr’s part.

As is so often the case when it comes to the Republican leaders on Jones Street, the latest power grab proposal sounds as if it were cooked up in some late night, frat house bull session at which participants challenged each other to come up with ever more outrageous proposals. At this rate, by the end of the session, lawmakers will likely be proposing to turn the governor’s office into an unpaid volunteer position and transfer his or her official residence from the Mansion to a trailer on the legislative mall. Stay tuned.