News

Protesters topple UNC’s “Silent Sam” in evening demonstration

Protesters toppled the Confederate monument known as “Silent Sam” on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Monday night.

At a demonstration that began just after 7:30 p.m., several hundreds of protesters marched to the statue, which has been the focus of intense controversy over the last year.

The toppling of the monument, the only Confederate statue on any of UNC’s campuses, comes after the UNC Board of Governors last month declined to even discuss petitioning the North Carolina Historical Commission to remove it.

The commission meets Wednesday morning to discuss whether to remove three other Confederate monuments from downtown Raleigh.

Courts & the Law, News

The Hill: National GOP mapmaker dies in Raleigh after battle with cancer

The father of unconstitutionally gerrymandered maps in North Carolina has died.

Tom Hofeller, 75, died Thursday at his adopted home in Raleigh after a long battle with cancer, one of his close friends told The Hill newspaper.

For more than four decades, when Republicans needed strategic advice drawing political boundaries, the party turned to a small cadre of expert cartographers, trained in the rare art of redistricting. At the heart of that group was Tom Hofeller.

A mild-mannered California native who rarely allowed himself to be quoted in the media, Hofeller may be more responsible for the Republican majority in Congress than any other single person in modern politics.

He is one of only a handful of people who helped create the modern redistricting process, first by crafting district lines meant to overcome decades of Democratic advantages and then by tilting the field in favor of Republicans in later years.

As both parties became more aware of the importance of drawing district lines, and more litigious when the lines were not drawn in their favor, Hofeller began consulting Republicans in charge of drawing maps in their states, urging caution and pragmatism in preparation for an inevitable court challenge.

Hofeller is responsible for drawing the gerrymandered North Carolina maps in 2011 and redrawing them last year after top Republicans re-hired him. Those same lawmakers haven’t commented publicly on his passing, but General Assembly special counsel Brent Woodcox called Hofeller a gentleman and a mentor on Twitter.

Several people commented on Twitter about Hofeller’s passing and the influence he had over elections through mapmaking.

Environment

FERC holding public hearings, accepting comment on pipeline in Rockingham, Alamance counties

Although construction has stopped on the main trunk of the  303-mile Mountain Valley Pipeline, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is holding public hearings in North Carolina this week on the southern stem, known as MVP Southgate.

If constructed, MVP Southgate would enter the state near Eden, in Rockingham County, and continue southeast for more than 40 miles into Alamance County before stopping in Graham. The project is owned by two large natural gas companies, NextEra Energy and EQT Corporation.

The first public hearing, also known as a scoping meeting, is tonight from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Reidsville Events Center, 223 S. Scales St. The second hearing in North Carolina will be held Thursday in Haw River at the Vailtree Event Center, 1567 Bakatsias Lane,  from 5 to 8 p.m.

The NC Department of Environmental Quality has not issued any permits related to the project.

The main MVP project starts at a fracked gas operation in West Virginia. However, the $3.5 billion pipeline stalled after a federal court’s recent ruling that several agencies, including the US Forest Service, had not required stricter controls on erosion and sedimentation. The court then invalidated permits that would have allowed the MVP to cross the Jefferson National Forest . FERC subsequently issued a stop-worker order on construction. (FERC did the same over questions regarding environmental permits on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.)

To submit written comments on MVP Southgate, use the FERC eComments function on the agency’s website at https://ferc.gov/docs-filing/ecomment.asp. The website also offers the option of submitting comments electronically with supporting documentation using the eFiling feature at: https://ferc.gov/docs-filing/efiling.asp.

In addition, written comments may be submitted to Secretary Kimberly Bose, FERC, 888 First Street NE, Room 1A, Washington, D.C. 20426. When submitting public comments, be sure to include docket number PF18-4-000 to ensure they are considered in the agency’s final decision. All comments must be received by 5 p.m. Sept. 10, 2018.

Defending Democracy, News

The week’s Top Stories on Policy Watch

1. Pat McCrory, at last, makes a stand

North Carolina made history again Monday, the not-so-bad kind.

If you were in earshot of Raleigh Monday, you might have heard: The state’s five living former governors—two Republicans, three Democrats: Jim Martin, Jim Hunt, Mike Easley, Bev Perdue and, strangest of all, Pat McCrory—gathered to denounce a pair of blatant legislative power grabs masquerading as constitutional amendments.

The legislature, in its depressingly partisan march to the ballot box, has finally evoked a moment of bipartisanship from our former governors.

It was a remarkable scene, one appropriately assembled to combat remarkable affronts from the General Assembly. I can’t imagine these five sharing lunch, much less a brawl with the state legislature over two constitutional amendments that both deserve a swift defeat.[Read more…]

2. Meaningless or dangerous? Hunting and fishing constitutional amendment raises huge questions

The highest profile public policy debate in North Carolina in the summer of 2018 revolves around the controversial decision of state legislative leaders to place a package of six constitutional amendments on the November ballot. Just yesterday, all five living former governors of the state held an extraordinary press conference in which they decried two of the amendments as egregious and deceptively labeled power grabs that would fundamentally alter the balance of power in the state for the worse.

Two other amendments in the package have been rightfully blasted for the destructive impact they would have on the fairness and adequacy of funding for core state services (the proposed income tax cap) and the right of hundreds of thousands of residents to vote (the voter ID amendment).

One of the six amendments to receive comparatively less attention in recent weeks, however, is the proposal to establish a constitutional right “to use traditional methods, to hunt, fish, and harvest wildlife.” While many critics have derided the proposal as a blatant attempt to spur voter turnout this fall amongst conservative rural voters, substantive criticism of the amendment has been largely muted, with many critics simply arguing that the amendment is silly and unnecessary because it wouldn’t really change anything.[Read more…] Read more

Commentary, News

Trumponomics: CEO pay surging as average Americans continue to struggle

Not that it comes as any particular surprise in the era of Trump, but there’s a new report out from analysts at the Economic Policy Institute that documents a remarkable new surge in pay for American CEO’s in 2017.

The report finds that:

“…in 2017 the average CEO of the 350 largest firms in the U.S. received $18.9 million in compensation, a 17.6 percent increase over 2016. The typical worker’s compensation remained flat, rising a mere 0.3 percent. The 2017 CEO-to-worker compensation ratio of 312-to-1 was far greater than the 20-to-1 ratio in 1965 and more than five times greater than the 58-to-1 ratio in 1989 (although it was lower than the peak ratio of 344-to-1, reached in 2000). The gap between the compensation of CEOs and other very-high-wage earners is also substantial, with the CEOs in large firms earning 5.5 times as much as the average earner in the top 0.1 percent.”

Analysts attribute part of the surge to cashed-in stock options, but it goes on to note that:

“CEO compensation has grown far faster than stock prices or corporate profits. CEO compensation rose by 979 percent (based on stock options granted) or 1,070 percent (based on stock options realized) between 1978 and 2017. The corresponding 637 percent growth in the stock market (S & P Index) was far lower. Both measures of compensation are substantially greater than the painfully slow 11.2 percent growth in the typical worker’s compensation over the same period and at least three times as fast as the 308 percent growth of wages for the very highest earners, those in the top 0.1 percent.”

Of course, the bottom line is that this is an obscene situation that demands public policy solutions. As EPI explains:

Regardless of how it is measured, CEO pay continues to be very, very high and has grown far faster in recent decades than typical worker pay. Higher CEO pay does not reflect correspondingly higher output or better firm performance. Exorbitant CEO pay therefore means that the fruits of economic growth are not going to ordinary workers. The growth of CEO and executive compensation overall was a major factor driving the doubling of the income shares of the top 1 percent and top 0.1 percent of U.S. households from 1979 to 2007. Since then, income growth has remained unbalanced. Profits and stock market prices have reached record highs while the wages of most workers have continued to stagnate.

Over the last several decades, CEO pay has grown much faster than profits, the pay of the top 0.1 percent of wage earners, and the wages of college graduates. CEOs are getting more because of their power to set pay, not because they are more productive or have special talents or more education. If CEOs earned less or were taxed more, there would be no adverse impact on output or employment.

How we can solve the problem: Policy solutions that would limit and reduce incentives and the ability of CEOs to extract economic concessions without hurting the economy include the following:

  • Reinstate higher marginal income tax rates at the very top.
  • Set corporate tax rates higher for firms that have higher ratios of CEO-to-worker compensation.
  • Set a cap on compensation and tax anything over the cap.
  • Allow greater use of “say on pay,” which allows a firm’s shareholders to vote on top executives’ compensation.”

Click here to check out the full report.