Commentary

New revelation should disqualify Barrett for the Supreme Court

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

In case you missed it, Associated Press is reporting this morning that Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett served on the board of a private school chain that pursued discriminatory policies toward children.

This from the story by reporters Michelle R. Smith and Michael Biesecker:

Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett served for nearly three years on the board of private Christian schools that effectively barred admission to children of same-sex parents and made it plain that openly gay and lesbian teachers weren’t welcome in the classroom.

The policies that discriminated against LGBTQ people and their children were in place for years at Trinity Schools Inc., both before Barrett joined the board in 2015 and during the time she served.

The three schools, in Indiana, Minnesota and Virginia, are affiliated with People of Praise, an insular community rooted in its own interpretation of the Bible, of which Barrett and her husband have been longtime members. At least three of the couple’s seven children have attended the Trinity School at Greenlawn, in South Bend, Indiana.

The story goes on to provide detailed information about the way Trinity Schools practiced discrimination and delivered downright horrific messages to the children it did admit.

Several former students of varying ages who attend all three Trinity schools separately described being taught a vivid reading from Dante’s “Inferno” that depicts the eternal suffering of Sodomites condemned to hell for their sins. Four of them said teachers made clear the passage referred to gay men who were rightly suffering in hell. Some more recent graduates of the Minnesota school, however, said their teacher did not dwell on the passage.

One Trinity graduate even told of being forced to undergo “conversion therapy” after school administrators learned he was gay.

This is, in a word, outrageous. Just as it should and would disqualify Barrett if she served on the board of a school that discriminated against children based upon the race of their parents, so too should it disqualify her to have approved of such ignorant and intolerant policies toward the children of LGBTQ parents.

Especially on a day in which even Pope Francis stated that gay people are the “children of God” and endorsed same-sex civil unions, Barrett’s support of such hateful discrimination should sound the death knell for her nomination.

Click here to read the full story.

Commentary

Gene Nichol: North Carolina’s brutal treatment of the poor

Time for NC to stop “trying to out Mississippi Mississippi”

In case you missed it yesterday, the McClatchy papers in Charlotte and Raleigh featured the latest excellent op-ed from UNC law professor Gene Nichol. In “For the struggling, a long hard run in NC,” Nichol offers yet another powerful indictment of the policies of the state’s conservative-led General Assembly.

First, Nichol catalogues some of the dreadful suffering that now afflicts so many in our state:

  • Over 1.1 million North Carolina adults are presently experiencing food hardship – unable to get enough to eat.
  • 43% of Tar Heel Latinx households, 51% of Black families and 36% of white ones have lost employment income.
  • Among renters 36% of Hispanic, 16% of white and 10% of black Tar Heels have been forced to miss rental payments.
  • Thirteen percent of all Tar Heel adults are without health coverage, 18% of all adults aged 18-65. Thirty-eight percent of North Carolina Latinos have no health insurance, 15% of African-Americans and 9% of whites.
He then concludes by asking North Carolinians to reconsider their support for a legislature that allows — and, indeed, aggressively enables — such suffering:

Refusing Medicaid expansion is but one of their hallmarks, though it’s admittedly the most brutal one. Over the last decade our lawmakers have expressed pride in having assured that North Carolina now has the stingiest unemployment compensation program in the country. They made us the only state to ever abolish its earned income tax credit – thus raising the tax bill for working families making about $35,000 a year. They kicked thousands of poor kids off the food stamp program though it saved us not a penny, since the federal government pays the tab. They zeroed out the legal aid appropriation because lawyers were being too zealous in representing poor people. This is what Thom Tillis described as his program to “divide and conquer”.

I looked at the list, this week, of the ten states with the greatest hunger problems. There we were, of course, prominently displayed. We were ranked alongside our usual running buddies – Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas. Most entrants had one notable common marker, membership in the Confederacy. That doesn’t seem like coincidence.

We’ve had a long hard run now with a Republican legislature trying to out Mississippi Mississippi, out Alabama Alabama, and out Texas Texas.

Surely, Nichol says, North Carolina can do better. Click here to read the entire essay.

Commentary, NC Budget and Tax Center

More evidence of the state’s inadequate, inequitable unemployment insurance system 

The persistent joblessness across North Carolina as evidenced in today’s labor market report, as well as federal inaction are leaving workers without the supports to weather the current public health and economic crisisIn combination with state policy choices in recent years, the result is that North Carolina’s unemployment insurance program is blocked from delivering the critical stabilizing support to families and communities that is necessary for a full and just recovery 

Last week, the U.S. Department of Labor released the latest weekly data on unemployment insurance claims, showing not only that the number of jobless workers remains elevated but also that initial claims increased week over week.  Nationally, initial claims last week were greater than the second worst week of the Great Recession. 

More than 19,000 initial claims in North Carolina were filed the week of Oct. 10, compared to 15,500 initial claims last week and 3,700 initial claims in the same week last year  

Since policy changes in 2013, North Carolina’s unemployment insurance has been designed, to do very little to bolster  workers through job loss and economic crisis. Instead, changes were meant to pay down debt quickly so employers would not have to pay more in taxes after unemployment insurance tax cuts in the 1990s 

The state system is particularly ill-equipped to handle the unique characteristics of this recession, as it excludes many of the workers those who are part-time and earn low wages who have been hit hardest by the COVID-19 recession. 

Indeed, North Carolina’s bad UI policy is putting jobless workers at a greater disadvantage in this recession and pandemic than jobless workers in other states. It means that North Carolina is leaving federal dollars on the table that could be helping jobless workers now.  It will make the pathway to recovery for the state economy steeper overall 

Here are three examples of how features of our state Unemployment Insurance system are blocking jobless workers from the support that is needed to keep consumers spending and economies on the road to recovery. 

  1. The length of time that a jobless worker can receive unemployment insurance in North Carolina is capped at 20 weeks (unlike the national standard of 26 weeks), but it can also drop to as low as 12 weeks based on the unemployment rate averaged over a set of months.This sliding scale that is not based on the immediate experience of the labor market meant, when the pandemic hit, that jobless workers could only receive 12 weeks of unemployment insurance at the start of the pandemic. For many workers who lost their jobs then, state unemployment insurance expired back in June.

    When jobless workers exhaust their state unemployment insurance, they can move to the federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program and then the Extended Benefit Program.  The duration of the Extended Benefit program decreased this fall because it too, is tied to the state’s duration.This means North Carolina’s jobless workers will have three and a half fewer weeks of unemployment insurance even if, during this pandemic, there aren’t jobs to go back to.  At a time when many people have been out of work, the duration of Unemployment Insurance is being held down by policy choices, not by need for support.


  1. Another announcement this fall was that the Lost Wages Assistance program has ended in North Carolina, meaning that jobless workers have reverted to the weekly benefit amount that they are eligible for under the state system. In September, the average weekly benefit amount received by jobless workers had dropped to $210. The goal of unemployment insurance is to replace lost wages at a level that keeps workers from being pushed into deeper hardship and stabilizes the economy.  Economists generally agree the goal should be 50% wage replacement. The September average weekly benefit amount represents approximately a 25% wage replacement rate.

  1. Finally, legislative leaders attempted to address the issue of inadequate benefits this fall and loss of the federal $600 per week boost — and enacted a temporary increase of $50/week for jobless workers.  Because of the design of the program and the timing, jobless workers who exhausted state benefits before Sept. 6 and are now on federal benefits are likely to be excluded.

    North Carolina’s exhaustion rate was already high pre-COVID-19 due to the short duration of state unemployment insurance.
     But the number of jobless workers who are losing unemployment insurance without finding new work is higher than the total starting unemployment insurance since June. Nearly 300,000 jobless workers exhausted state unemployment insurance through August 2020.

The issue of too little wage replacement for too short in time for jobless workers matters for the ability of people to pay rent, keep food on the table and keep businesses open that depend on people spending locally. It also means that North Carolina has cut off workers, businesses and the economy from the full benefit of federal unemployment insurance programs at a critical time.   

Commentary, COVID-19

Pandemic fuels stunning growth in the wealth of the super-rich

U.S. needs a special one-time wealth tax to fund services, ease widespread suffering

One probably shouldn’t be surprised, but it’s still stunning to learn just how handsomely the super-rich have been faring in recent months at the same moment that millions of Americans are struggling to find enough to eat.

This is from a recent post by Chuck Collins of Inequality.org:

US Billionaire Wealth Up $850 billion Since March 18th; Global billionaires up $1.5 trillion

The combined wealth of U.S. billionaires increased by $850 billion since March 18th, 2020, the beginning of the pandemic, an increase of over 28 percent.

On March 18, 2020, U.S. billionaires had combined wealth of $2.947 trillion.  By October 8th, their wealth has surged to $3.8 trillion ($3.798 billion to be exact).

The stock market has been going up and down in recent weeks with billionaires holding steady.  On September 18, total billionaire wealth was $845 billion. Billionaires have seen huge gains over the last six months as millions of Americans have lost their jobs, health and savings, if not their lives.

At the global level, billionaires are big winners during the Covid-19 pandemic. According to a recent UBS report, the roughly 2,189 global billionaires now have $10.2 trillion. This is an estimated increase of $1.5 trillion during the pandemic looking at both UBS and Forbes billionaire data from 2019.

This updates our Billionaire Bonanza 2020 report that looked at “pandemic profiteers” and put forward a number of policy recommendations. One new recommendation is for an emergency pandemic billionaire wealth tax to fund urgent health care and state and local aide.

And this is from an essay that Collins and Frank Clemente of Americans for Tax Fairness published this summer:

It is time to levy an emergency wealth tax on billionaire profiteers and direct the funds to offset the cost of the nation’s health-care costs.

Independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders—backed by Democratic Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Ed Markey of Massachusetts—has introduced the Make Billionaires Pay Act to recapture over half the extreme wealth gains made by billionaires during the pandemic. The bill proposes a one-time, 60% tax exclusively on billionaires’ gains between March 18 and the end of this year. It would raise about $420 billion, based on the increased wealth of the country’s billionaires as of Aug. 5.

…Even with the new tax, billionaires would still have an estimated $310 billion in gains during the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.

As Collins and Clemente note in conclusion:

COVID-19 has caused an unprecedented health and economic crisis that no one should be excessively profiting from. Yet many billionaires are making huge hauls during a time of suffering and sacrifice.

In the past, our leaders took action to curb such profiteering in times of crisis.
During World War II, Sen. Harry Truman held congressional hearings on war profiteering, exposing the ways some corporations grabbed profits during wartime sacrifice. Under President Dwight Eisenhower, the U.S. levied an excess profits tax on companies profiteering during the Korean War.

Today, the choice is stark: Do we enable 500 or so billionaires to further concentrate wealth and power during a pandemic, or do we tax the gains of these billionaires to improve the health and welfare of our country?

How we face this extraordinary inequality is the ultimate test of what kind of country we are and what we will become.

Commentary

Don’t miss Thursday’s Crucial Conversation: Forecasting the 2020 election with Tom Jensen of Public Policy Polling

If you’re looking for the latest scoop on what to expect in two weeks when America finally tallies the votes in the hotly contested 2020 election, be sure to join us Thursday, October 22 at 12:00 noon for a very special (and virtual) Crucial Conversation

Forecasting the 2020 election with Tom Jensen of Public Policy Polling

Click here to register.

Tom Jensen is the Director of Public Policy Polling and one of the nation’s most experienced and accomplished pollsters. He has overseen thousands of polling projects, covering everything from Presidential and Senate races to County Commissioner and School Board races all over the country. He is the voice behind PPP’s popular Twitter account, which has more than 100,000 followers.

Click here to register.

Don’t miss this very special event.

When: Thursday October 22 at 12:00 noon.

Where: Online; pre-register from the comfort of your home, and remember to social distance!

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