News
ferguson-demonstration

Ferguson demonstration in the Triangle. Image: WRAL.com

In cities across North Carolina, thousands of people gathered Tuesday evening to voice their feelings about the grand jury decision in Ferguson, Mo. not to indict a white policeman for the shooting death of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager.

Here’s a sampling of those remarks:

As reported by WBTV in Charlotte:

“Until we have a true system where people actually feel that they’re apart of it, we’re going to continue to have things like we did last night, unfortunately,” Bree Newsome said.

“I’m not going to go blow up cars, I’m not going to go to set things on fire, I’m going to my elected officials. I’m going straight to Pennsylvania avenue,” said Chandler Sanders, a local minister who says change starts with them.

From the Asheville Citizen Times:

“I came because I wanted to support my people,” said Nicholas Burton, 32, who wears long dreadlocks and a nose ring. “Black Americans are facing genocide. Privilege is something that isn’t given to all Americans, especially people of color. Events like this help white people see that black lives matter.”

From the Winston Salem Journal:

Student Charity Timberlake said that blacks need to convince white society of their humanity.

“I feel that it is up to us to redefine our perception within American culture,” she said. “I think the reason behind everything is we are not viewed as people, so it is OK to kill us, and that is why he (the Ferguson officer) got off … We have to make it a point to put that
in their face that we are people and do deserve respect.”

John Roach, a white man, said he was saddened by talk from demonstrators that they were going to “shut down” Ferguson.

“It is sad that they (the protesters) can’t see the lack of value in violence and that it is no way to a peaceful end,” he said. “What good does that do?”

And from WTVD in Durham:

“We hope that the community will take pause and reflect on what has happened in this case and realize that situations like this will continue to be a part of our everyday lives until we become more active in letting our voices be heard. Marching and protests are good. When they are over, what is the next step?” Fayetteville NAACP President James Buxton Jr. said.

Commentary

TaxesCatherine Rampell of the Washington Post has an excellent essay in this morning’s edition of Raleigh’s News & Observer about how the American aversion to taxes has become an irrational and destructive affliction. Not only are we leaving core public structures and services chronically underfunded, we’re skewing our entire political system by turning our public servants into scavengers who must concoct ever-more-elaborate schemes to pay for the services we demand.

“Voters hate taxes and will punish any politician who threatens to raise them (or, in many cases, does not accede to cutting them). But schools, roads, police forces, garbage collection, firefighters, jails and pensions still cost money, even when you cut them back as much as voters will tolerate. So instead of raising taxes, state and municipal governments have resorted to nickel-and-diming constituents through other kinds of piecemeal, non-tax revenue raisers, an outcome that is less transparent, and likely to worsen the economy, inequality and social injustice.

Think of recent, infuriating stories on civil asset forfeiture, in which law enforcement seizes cash and other property from people who are never charged with crimes. Often the departments that do the seizing get to keep the proceeds, which leads to terrible incentives. Officers around the country now attend workshops that offer tips on the best goodies to nab (go for flat-screen TVs, not jewelry).

Forcing cops to remit forfeiture proceeds to the state or local treasury, rather than allowing an eat-what-you-kill policy, might discourage bad behavior to some degree. But at heart, the reason such actions are so commonplace is that government revenue has to come from somewhere, if it ain’t coming from taxes.”

As Rampell goes on to point out, this ridiculous state of affairs is transforming how we fund government from a broadly-shared, democratic enterprise  into a regressive, market-distorting mess. She might’ve also mentioned that it’s helping to transform how we think about government as well. Where once all citizens were stakeholders/owners, we’re now becoming cheapskate bargain hunters looking only to get the best deals for ourselves (e.g. private school vouchers).

Her solution: “It’s time to take off the fiscal blinkers and start rewarding politicians who have the courage to advocate raising revenues the old-fashioned way: through taxes.”

Amen to that.

Commentary

ThanksgivingIf you’re preparing for the inevitable political discussions that will accompany your family get-togethers this week, here are three new Thanksgiving-themed posts that might help you out:

#1 is today’s Fitzsimon File, which highlights the hypocritical change of heart that so many conservative politicians display toward people in need around the holidays. As Chris notes, the disconnect between what the politicians say about the same needy people during the holidays and the other 11 months of the years is frequently breathtaking.

#2 is a new Q&A from the N.C. Budget and Tax Center entitled “How to talk about the economy and taxes with your family.” Here’s an example:

WHEN THEY SAY: “This state is spending more than ever on public education.”

YOU SAY: We’re funding public schools in NC nearly 6 percent less than in 2008 when you adjust for how much things cost.  This would be like the Panthers claiming a touchdown at the 6 yard line.

As the economy improves—and it is improving—we need to invest in our public schools to ensure that we educate our kids and build a sound foundation for future economic growth. Without investing more, we can’t ensure that our classrooms, teachers and students have the cutting-edge tools to improve learning.

Finally, #3 is this morning’s edition of the Weekly Briefing (“Food for thought on the immigration question”) in which several key facts are spelled out (and myths exposed) about President Obama’s executive order on immigration last week. For example: Read More

News

Voting rightsThere was a good deal of anecdotal evidence during the November election indicating that something was amiss in a lot voting places around the state. Now, sadly, there is damning confirmation in a new report from the watchdogs at Democracy North Carolina. This is from the report summary:

“New voting restrictions and unprepared poll workers kept as many as 50,000 North Carolinians from voting in this fall’s general election, according to an analysis by the elections watchdog group Democracy North Carolina.

Although most voters reported that casting a ballot was easy and election officials generally responded quickly to fix a broken machine, there is mounting evidence that a shorter early voting period, confusion caused by new election rules, and strong turnout pushed many Election Day polling sites to the breaking point.

Read More

NC Budget and Tax Center

The stories of children held back from pursuing educational opportunities, of families separated and weakened by deportations or their threat, of communities uncertain how to integrate and engage immigrants, provide the most compelling support for President Obama’s announcement of a new proposal to grant temporary, limited immigration status to certain immigrant families.

To complement these stories, however, data from the Migration Policy Institute details the potential numbers of individuals who this proposal could reach nationwide and in North Carolina. Approximately 117,000 parents in North Carolina would be eligible for the new deferred action program and another 38,000 young people would be eligible immediately for the expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. In total, this policy has the potential to reach a little more than 40 percent of the state’s total population of immigrants who are undocumented. Read More