Commentary, Trump Administration

Another big lie in new GOP tax law exposed

Donald Trump speaking

President Donald Trump

Rebekah Entralgo at Think Progress has an important story exposing one of the more blatant and outrageous scams in the nation’s new tax law that was enacted by President Trump and congressional Republicans last December. You won’t be at all surprised to learn that a loophole sold as a break for “small business” has actually turned out to be a giveaway to the richest Americans. This is from “Wealthiest Americans poised to take advantage of loophole left by GOP tax plan”:

“The non-partisan Joint Committee on Taxation released a report Monday detailing the effects of the GOP tax bill, ahead of a Tuesday Senate hearing on the same subject.

The findings indicate that nearly 44 percent of the tax cuts for so-called pass-through businesses will go to tax filers making more than $1 million in 2018, while more than 90 percent of the cuts will go to those earning more than $100,000.

As ThinkProgress previously reported, even though Republicans repeatedly claimed their tax plan would provide cuts for small business owners, pass-through businesses are not small businesses in the mom-and-pop sense, but rather are entities like partnerships, S-corporations, and limited liability companies (LLCs).

The final version of the GOP tax bill transformed the pass-through tax break into a deduction against taxable income, effectively cutting the top rate on pass-through income down from 39.6 percent to 29.6 percent.

This provides top pass-through earners — such as hedge fund owners and lawyers — with an enormous loophole, allowing them to effectively re-characterize parts of their income to pay taxes at a rate 10 points lower than what they are currently paying.”

The story goes on to explain that the tax break will also benefit multiple members of Congress as well as Trump himself and his son-in-law Jared Kushner. Between the two of them, Trump and Kushner could realize and annual tax cut of $40 million.

Meanwhile, the story reports that average Americans aren’t faring quite as well as the rich.

“The non-partisan Tax Policy Center found that top 1 percent will get an average cut of $1,022,120, while the middle 20 percent will get an average cut of $420.

The public has appeared to catch on to the scam. A Monday Gallup poll found that a majority of Americans, from both sides of the aisle, aren’t sure if their taxes have gone up or down.”

News

New Elon poll shows views on $5 billion Amazon project

Last week the Elon University Poll took a look at enthusiasm and support for a second Amazon headquarters in the 19 locations in 16 U.S. metros competing for the $5 billion project.

The project, which could employ as many as 50,000, has the potential for a huge economic impact. It’s also become a bit of a political football.

The competition for a new headquarters has thrown light on the fact that the tech company is a top employer of food assistance recipients.

It’s also reignited debates about state LGBTQ protections as the company has said it is limiting its criteria to states that have such laws.

The Elon poll found “strong support” for the project from 43 percent of the North Carolinians surveyed — well behind sites like Indianapolis, Pittsburgh and Atlanta, where “strong support” was at over 50 percent.

From the Elon release on the results:

“The balance between cheerleaders and opponents is key to how a major change is received within a community. While a majority in all of the HQ2 finalist regions support Amazon moving to town, some areas had more cheerleaders and fewer opponents,” says Jason Husser, director of the Elon Poll and assistant professor of political science. “Our results suggest Amazon should expect Pittsburgh, Atlanta and Indianapolis to be particularly rich with advocates. Conversely, executives should have at least some reason for pause about the potential for opposition groups emerging in Austin and Denver.”

The survey also explored public appetite for large-scale incentives packages and the perceived impact from such a large-scale project as the Amazon headquarters on the local community in terms of real estate costs, cost of living and wages. It asked whether residents want what promises to be an expansive Amazon campus in the suburbs or downtown.

Read the full results of the poll with info on methodology here.

Education, News

North Carolina teacher pay ranking to climb two spots in 2018, but still lags national average

North Carolina teacher pay is projected to climb two spots in the national rankings this year, although it should remain in the bottom third of the country, according to a national benchmark released Monday.

The nonpartisan National Education Association estimated the state’s educator pay would inch from 39th to 37th nationally, although it’s worth noting that the report’s estimates can be adjusted. Indeed, North Carolina was projected to be ranked 35th last year, although the new report says the state actually placed at 39th.

North Carolina’s average teacher salary, an estimated $50,861, would still lag the national average, which is projected to surpass $60,000 in 2018.

However, when adjusted for inflation, Monday’s report estimated North Carolina teacher pay fell more than 9 percent from 2009 through 2018. During that same time period, the national average slipped by about 4 percent.

Meanwhile, on another key measure, per-pupil spending in North Carolina is projected to rank 39th in the country in 2018. That’s the same ranking the state held in 2017 spending, according to Monday’s report, although that’s an increase from the 43rd position that last year’s NEA report estimated the state would hold in 2017.

Rep. Craig Horn, R-Union

Still, North Carolina’s per-pupil expenditure, an estimated $9,528 this year, will also trail the national average, which is just less than $12,000.

“I am glad to see that we are moving up in the rankings, but know that we still have a long way to go and are committed to further teacher pay raises,” Rep. Craig Horn, a Union County Republican who co-chairs the House education appropriations committee, told Policy Watch Monday.

The N.C Association of Educators, which lobbies for teachers at the state legislature, issued a statement Monday morning slamming lawmakers for the news.

NCAE President Mark Jewell

“Our students deserve public schools that have the resources they need to be successful and educators who are respected like the professionals they are,” said NCAE President Mark Jewell. “Instead of prioritizing corporate boardrooms, our elected leaders should be making critical investments in our classrooms.”

Jewell is likely referring to a series of corporate and personal income tax cuts handed down by the state legislature since 2013. At a time when K-12 advocates say leaders should be beefing up public education spending following massive recession-era cuts, the tax cuts cost the state more than $3 billion in state revenues annually.

With teachers protesting this year in states like Kentucky, West Virginia and Oklahoma, education spending has been on the front-burner in 2018.

One key measure in the report noted the national average on spending for schools’ operational expenses is down about a half-percentage point since 2009 when adjusted for inflation, although adjusted spending on school construction and maintenance has plunged by about 15 percent during that time.

State officials estimated North Carolina faces more than $8 billion in infrastructure needs of its own. And while the state’s local governments have historically been charged with funding capital needs, North Carolina lawmakers are under pressure to take up a $1.9 billion statewide school bond referendum this year.

North Carolina teachers aren’t likely to launch the kind of prolonged protests reported in other states this year, but educators are planning a May 16 rally in Raleigh to urge state lawmakers to spend more on schools. The NCAE is timing the rally with legislators’ planned return to session.

A spokesman for Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, fired a shot at the Republican-controlled General Assembly after the report’s release Monday.

“If the legislature would adopt Governor Cooper’s teacher pay proposals, then North Carolina could get to at least the national average a lot faster,” said Cooper spokesman Ford Porter. “We cannot accept this ranking because teachers must have professional pay, and students must have well qualified teachers.”

Commentary

Cooper proclamation neatly sums up harsh reality facing the formerly incarcerated

Gov. Roy Cooper

Here’s something you don’t see every day: an official gubernatorial proclamation that’s worth a couple minutes of your time. Most such proclamations are milquetoast, of course: bland recitations of noncontroversial truisms that usually do little more than serve as backdrop for honoring a group or individual — a ball team or a retiring politician.

Today, however, Gov. Roy Cooper took the somewhat unusual step of listing some important and difficult truths about an important and difficult subject in a new proclamation. Here’s the text:

WHEREAS, the vast majority of the more than 37,000 people currently serving sentences in North Carolina prisons and jails will transition into communities throughout the state; and

WHEREAS, these formerly incarcerated individuals will be come part of a population of more than 1.5 million North Carolinians with criminal records; and

WHEREAS, helping people with criminal records become productive members of society benefits their families and communities in many ways, including improving safety and preventing and reducing crime; and

WHEREAS, formerly incarcerated individuals face numerous challenges that include finding work, housing, health care, and transportation, and these challenges may lead to recidivism, health, social, and security concerns; and

WHEREAS, federal, state, and local leaders have worked to establish policy that supports individuals who return to their communities after serving time in prison, jail, or under custodial supervision; and

WHEREAS, the North Carolina Department of Public Safety has developed the North Carolina Reentry Action Plan to facilitate a better transition for people from incarceration or community supervision back into society by coordinating existing resources, identifying resource gaps, and advocating on behalf of individuals with criminal records; and

WHEREAS, in 2017, the North Carolina General Assembly established the (SRCC) to be chaired by the Secretary of the Department of Public Safety Erik A. Hooks; and

WHEREAS, the SRCC includes representation from government, education, faith-and community-based organizations, and those formerly incarcerated, and is studying the needs of individuals who have been released from correctional institutions and working increase the effectiveness of local reentry councils; and

WHEREAS, North Carolina’s 14 local reentry councils connect justice-involved individuals with resources and services important to successful reentry, and decrease stigma by raising public awareness of the issues and challenges faced by formerly incarcerated individuals as they reenter the community;

NOW THEREFORE, I ROY COOPER, Governor of the State of North Carolina, do hereby proclaim April 23-27, 2018 as “REENTRY WEEK” in North Carolina, and commend its observance to all citizens.

Roy Cooper, Governor

Good for Cooper and the groups doing this important and often bipartisan work to reverse some of the damage wrought by our state’s ill-conceived and decades-long incarceration obsession. Click here to learn more about efforts to promote second chances for North Carolina’s formerly incarcerated. Let’s hope Cooper’s proclamation helps spur another year of real progress in this important area.

Environment

Nationwide, Chemours has paid $28 million in fines since 2000, including workplace violation in Fayetteville

Got a tip? If you or someone you know works or has worked at the Chemours plant in Fayetteville, and has health issues possibly related to chemical exposure, we’d like to hear from you. Send a confidential email to lisa@ncpolicywatch.com. We will contact you, but won’t use your name without your permission. For information on how confidential tips work, see the bottom of this story.

Federal health and safety officials fined Chemours $12,600 after at least 19 employees at its Fayetteville Works plant were exposed to methylene chloride in 2013, according to federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration data.

Methylene chloride is also known as dichloromethane. A liquid, its primary use is as a solvent in manufacturing, including degreasers and food technology, although it can be used as an anesthetic gas and acts as a narcotic in high concentrations. Depending on the length and amount of exposure, methylene chloride can cause cancer, particularly of the lung and liver, as well as genetic defects. The compound also can irritate the eyes, skin and lungs. It can cause drowsiness.

Federal data on Chemours/DuPont and hundreds of other companies, along with links to supporting documents, have been compiled by Good Jobs First’s Violation Tracker. (See a full list of Chemours violations below.) Chemours did not respond to a request for more details about the 2013 incident. OSHA referred Policy Watch to the NC Department of Labor for documentation; Policy Watch has filed a public records request requesting the information.

The fine on the Fayetteville Works plant is a minuscule portion of the $28.6 million levied nationwide against Chemours and/or its related companies, such as DuPont, since 2000. Most of the fines were assessed for environmental violations, nearly $763,000 was assessed for workplace health and safety violations.

More than half of Chemours’ total penalty amount stemmed from environmental violations related to the DuPont/Chemours Washington Works plant in Washington, WV. The Justice Department fined the company $16 million for withholding possible health risks of C8 (also known as PFOA), a precursor to GenX. Internal company data showed that rats died after inhaling the chemical and that it could be passed between a woman and her unborn child via the placenta.

The company agreed to pay another $671 million in a class-action lawsuit over contaminated drinking water, which affected thousands of residents in Ohio and West Virginia.

Policy Watch also asked state Department of Labor officials about any recent complaints and workplace investigations related to GenX at the Fayetteville Works plant. Policy Watch’s inquiry was prompted by a comment by Mike Abraczinskas, director of the state’s Division of Air Quality, at a Science Advisory Board meeting in March. He told the SAB that state environmental officials believed groundwater and soil were being contaminated by chemicals leaving the plant through the air. The primary sources of the contamination, Abraczinskas said, were from air the escaped from inside the plant and emissions vented through the plant’s stacks.

State labor department officials told Policy Watch that there were no active investigations at the Fayetteville Works plant, nor have they received any complaints from Chemours employees concerning safety and health, a department spokeswoman said.

How confidential tips work: Policy Watch generally uses named sources in its stories, but realizes that under some limited circumstances naming someone could subject them to retribution or harm. In those cases, which must be approved by an editor, Policy Watch agrees not to name the person (also known as a source) but uses the information provided by the source. 

A reporter must independently verify the information provided by the confidential source.

We do not use anonymous sources. That means we must be able to verify your identity even though we don’t name you in a story.

Chemours violations and fines 2000–2017

Company StateCityDescription, when availableYearPenalty ($)Agency
ChemoursTennesseeMemphisRelease of hydrogen cyanide above legal amounts; failure to notify201723,010Environmental Protection Agency
Chemours/DuPontWest VirginiaWashingtonControl of hazardous chemicals, workplace violations201718,108Occupational Safety and Health Administration
ChemoursNot listed in federal documentsRailroad safety violations20175,750Federal Railroad Administration
ChemoursNot listed in federal documentsRailroad safety violations20177,600FRA
ChemoursFloridaStarkeMachinery accident at titanium ore mine; one worker died20165,000Mining Safety and Health Administration
Chemours/First ChemicalMississippiPascagoulaRelease of anhydrous ammonia above legal amounts; failure to notify201623,010EPA
ChemoursNew JerseyDeepwaterWorkplace violations --3 serious and 1 repeat -- related to design and construction of exit routes, process and management of hazardous chemicals201625,350OSHA
ChemoursNot listed in federal documentsRailroad safety violations20168,400FRA
Chemours/DuPontTexasLa PorteWorkplace violations -- 3 serious and 2 repeat -- regarding manufacturing of hazardous chemicals2015285,848OSHA
Chemours/DuPontNew JerseyDeepwaterClean Air Act violations: improper maintenance, repair of two large refrigeration units that leaked chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) into environment. Failure to accurately submit reports to EPA under Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act.2015531,000EPA
Chemours/DuPontNew YorkTonawandaClean Air Act violations relating to a fire and explosion at its chemical plant2015724,000EPA
ChemoursNew YorkNiagara Falls2 serious workplace safety violations: Chemours did not provide adequate protection, such as acid suits, to employees exposed to contact and chemical burns from sodium hydroxide 201512,000OSHA
Chemours/DuPontNew YorkTonawandaPenalty associated with air pollution control measures required by the Clean Air Act, and the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act at its chemical manufacturing facility 2014440,000EPA
Chemours/DuPontWest VirginiaBelleSettlement involves eight alleged releases of harmful levels of hazardous substances May 2006 to January 2010, posing health risks to residents and workers. One DuPont worker died after exposure to phosgene, a toxic gas released due to DuPont's failure to comply with industry accident prevention procedures20141,275,000EPA
Chemours/DuPontTexasLa Porte4 workers died trying to unblock a plug in a pipe at the facility's Crop Production Unit when a sudden release of Methyl Mercaptain occurred.2014106,375OSHA
Chemours/DuPontLouisianaDarrow2 serious violations involving process and handling of hazardous chemicals201410,500OSHA
Chemours/DuPontNew JerseyDeepwater8 serious violations involving the process and handling of hazardous chemicals201478,500OSHA
Chemours/DuPontLouisianaDarrow3 serious and 1 other violation involving the process and handling of hazardous chemicals201428,000OSHA
Chemours/DuPontNew YorkNiagara Falls3 serious violations: Lithium operator's upper body covered with molten lithium; personal protective equipment ignited. Also violations for hand protection, floor and wall openings and holes201416,800OSHA
Chemours/DuPontNorth CarolinaFayettevilleAt least 19 workers exposed to Methylene Chloride201312,600OSHA
Chemours/DuPontWest VirginiaWashingtonClean Air Act violations at DuPont's Washington Works Facility2013800,000EPA
ChemoursFloridaStarkeMultiple unauthorized wastewater discharges because of rain, improper facility maintenance/ management 2012700,000EPA
ChemoursNew YorkNiagara Falls2 serious violations regarding mishandling of sulfuric acid20129,000OSHA
Chemours/DuPontTexasBeaumont5 serious violations: mishandling of hazardous chemicals, improper equipment, flammable liquids201118,000OSHA
Chemours/DuPontNew JerseyDeepwaterSettlement involved alleged violations of hazardous waste regulations at wastewater treatment facility2011250,000EPA
Chemours/DuPontWest VirginiaBelle1 serious violation: hazard communication20115,500OSHA
Chemours/DuPontKentuckyWurtlandEmployee died when a rail tank car containing 95% sulfuric acid overflowed. Employee was burned over 40% of his body.201112,600OSHA
ChemoursFloridaStarkeunspecified violations20118,134MSHA
ChemoursFloridaStarkeunspecified violations20115,996MSHA
ChemoursFloridaStarkeunspecified violations20116,893MSHA
ChemoursFloridaStarkeunspecified violations201112,822MSHA
ChemoursFloridaStarkeunspecified violations201111,373MSHA
ChemoursFloridaStarkeunspecified violations20118,000EPA
Chemours/DuPontNew YorkNiagara Falls2 serious violations, including problems with a gantry crane20106,275OSHA
Chemours/DuPontWest VirginiaBelle11 serious violations: Employees were exposed to chemical burns and inhalation hazards from leaks of corrosive Oleum liquid due to an inadequate pipe inspection program. The leak occurred in 2010, but the pipe had not been inspected since its installation in 1993.201043,000OSHA
Chemours/DuPontWest VirginiaBelleClean Air Act violations at a sulfuric acid plant20092,000,000DOJ
Chemours/First ChemicalKentucky, MississippiLouisville, PasagoulaClean Air Act violations resulting from explosions at two plants in 2002 and 2003 in Louisville, Ky., and Pascagoula, Miss.2009731,000DOJ
Chemours/DuPontWest VirginiaWashingtonInvolved federal violations related to the production of PFOAs200516,500,000DOJ
Chemours/DuPontTennesseeNew JohnsonvilleClean Air Act settlement requiring company to retrofit equipment to reduce use of ozone-depleting refrigerants and conduct other remediation20052,550,000DOJ
ChemoursFloridaStarkeClean Water Act violations2004127,600EPA
Chemours/DuPontKentuckyWurtland2 serious workplace safety violations related to manufacturing hazardous chemicals20049,000OSHA
Chemours/DuPontKentuckyLouisvilleClean Air Act case involving chemical release of 1,1-­difluoroethane (“DFE"). Accident resulted in immediate release of a high pressure stream of hydrogen fluoride into the air inside and outside the facility. DuPont was unable to contain or block that release for 40 minutes, and 5.75 tons of hydrogen fluoride escaped into the air.20031,102,000DOJ
ChemoursMississippiPascagoulaFailed to include chemical's name, identification and production volume on required report200315,895EPA
Chemours/DuPontMississippiPascagoula5 serious violations: mishandling of hazardous chemicals, improper equipment, flammable liquids200215,300OSHA
ChemoursFloridaStarke Clean Water Act violations involving wastewater discharge200019,800EPA

 

Source: Good Jobs First