Bernie Sanders

Sen. Bernie Sanders – Photo: AFL-CIO

There’s been a lot of talk that Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont will run for President in 2015-’16, but last night’s speech at Pullen Church in Raleigh before a friendly crowd of a few hundred people was all about policy. Sanders, a self-described Democratic Socialist who will turn 72 in a couple of weeks, devoted the lion’s share of his talk to lambasting the nation’s exploding economic inequality and the people (the Koch Brothers and their fellow plutocrats) and the policies (the demise of campaign finance laws, regressive tax laws) that he believes are behind it.

Sanders highlighted the nation’s dramatic rightward policy shift over recent decades by reading at length from the 1980 national Libertarian Party platform under which David Koch was a candidate for Vice President.  The senator then explained how many of the once-radical right policies that Koch had advanced at that time (e.g. the demise of the social safety net, the end of campaign finance regulations) were now considered mainstream conservative values. Read More

The McCrory administration is looking to bolster North Carolina’s economy as it undergoes major changes in how it will recruit new employers to the state.

In a final meeting for the state’s economic development board, N.C. Commerce Sec. Sharon Decker told members Wednesday that she’s hoping to figure out a way to continue to attract businesses, even as the legislature declined to fund some of her priorities.

The state legislature ended its session earlier this month without funding a $20 million “closing fund” that Decker and Gov. Pat McCrory had asked for. But it did give its blessing to moving the state’s marketing and recruiting efforts to a public-private partnership, a setup that has had mixed results in other states.

The board for the new public-private economic development partnership is expected to meet this afternoon. The group hopes to be operational by early October.

State lawmakers also let a tax credit program for the film industry, which offered credits of approximately 25 cents for every $1 spent on big projects, to sunset at the end of the year. Lawmakers instead allocated $10 million for a modified grant program.

Decker said Wednesday that she’s already heard that several shows and film projects may be backing out of North Carolina because of the changes.

“The risk is significant,” Decker said, about the possibility of losing North Carolina film jobs.

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These come from a recent University of California Alumni Association profile of economist Emmanuel Saez and his work that was linked to by the excellent online newsletter Too Much:

The top 1 percenters in the United States, for example, have seen their share of national income rise from under 8 percent in 1970 to just under 20 percent in 2010. A similar pattern is seen in Canada, which also adopted the same esprit de laissez-faire that made Reaganomics the hallmark of United States fiscal policy in the 1980s.

In contrast, over the same period, the top 1 percenters in Japan saw their share of national income inch up from 8 to 9.5 percent. French and Swedish plutocrats were similarly deprived. (Emphasis supplied).

Meanwhile, check out the following amazing graph of Census data that also comes from the folks at Too Much: Read More

This is part of a Back to School blog series that highlight various issues to be aware of as the 2014-15 school year kicks off. (See Part 1 and Part 2)

This week, more than 1.5 million North Carolina’s students headed back to school to underfunded classrooms. For yet another school year, teachers will do their best to prepare today’s students to grow into critical thinkers and succeed as workers in a demanding 21st century economy with too few resources available. Legislative leadership and the Governor approved a budget that fails to make up lost ground in public education, keeping spending below the last budget that was in place before the Great Recession.

In fact, when the pay raises for teachers are properly placed in the salaries and reserves section of the General Fund budget and not the public education section—a practice that has long been in place—public education spending in the new budget is below last year’s spending levels (see graphic below). This certainly is not progress, but rather sliding backwards with a budget trick used as cover.

Five years into the recovery from the worst economic downturn since the 1930s, catching up and keeping up with the needs of North Carolina’s students is stalled due to the fact that lawmakers chose to enact a tax plan last year that keeps the state from replacing the most damaging cuts to public investments. The 2013 tax plan is draining available resources—$5.4 billion over five years—that is needed to regain lost ground and reinvest in the building blocks of a strong economy. The tax plan’s impact is evident throughout the final budget for fiscal year 2015. Read More