As was noted in yesterday’s Weekly Briefing, “A Tax Day sermon,” it can be a fascinating exercise to briefly contemplate just how far to the right American politics have been pushed in the last few decades as a result of the influx of big corporate money.

“In 2014, the United States is a place: in which a deranged Nevada cattle herder named Cliven Bundy can defy federal law and be transformed overnight into a far right celebrity, in which the party of Lincoln in one of the stronghold union states of the Civil War can vote to explore secession, in which conservative religious groups who claim to follow the teachings of a humble and un-propertied carpenter can champion tax cuts for the rich and in which North Carolina — one of the old confederate states that has made such great headway in escaping its dreadful and reactionary past – can roll back several decades of painstaking progress toward modernity in as many months.”

Here’s another rather amazing indicator: the nation’s disastrous abandonment of the settled meaning of the Second Amendment. In his new book, “Six Amendments: How and Why We Should Change the Constitution” (an excerpt of which appeared recently in the Washington Post) retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens (a 1975 Ford appointee) proposes returning the Second Amendment to its long-settled meaning by adding five words (italicized below) so that it would read:

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms when serving in the Militia shall not be infringed.”

Stevens’ proposal makes obvious sense and the fact that we would have to go to such trouble shows just how far out of hand things have gotten. Here’s another amazing indicator from Stevens’ book of our mass, national departure from common sense: a quote Stevens attributes to former Chief Justice Warren Burger — another conservative Republican. This is from Stevens’ book:

“When I joined the court in 1975, that holding was generally understood as limiting the scope of the Second Amendment to uses of arms that were related to military activities. During the years when Warren Burger was chief justice, from 1969 to 1986, no judge or justice expressed any doubt about the limited coverage of the amendment, and I cannot recall any judge suggesting that the amendment might place any limit on state authority to do anything.

Organizations such as the National Rifle Association disagreed with that position and mounted a vigorous campaign claiming that federal regulation of the use of firearms severely curtailed Americans’ Second Amendment rights. Five years after his retirement, during a 1991 appearance on ‘The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour,’ Burger himself remarked that the Second Amendment ‘has been the subject of one of the greatest pieces of fraud, I repeat the word ‘fraud,’ on the American public by special interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime.’” (Emphasis supplied).

To which all a caring and thinking person can add is: “Amen (and amend).”

In North Carolina, a singular focus on comparing the state’s income tax rates to other states was used to justify massive rate reductions in the 2013 tax plan.  But do tax rates determine whether a state is competitive?

It turns out that income tax rates do not indicate competitiveness of a state’s tax code for two reasons:

  1. The vast majority of people and business make decisions based on other factors
  2. Tax credits and deductions mean that few pay the full income tax rate. Read More

A new study released Tuesday by the North Carolina Bankers Association (NCBA) shows the profound economic impact immigrants have had on North Carolina’s economy.

According to the extensive study by researchers at the University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler Business School:

  • Hispanic buying power ($9.5 billion) rippled through the state’s economy creating an overall economic impact of $10.3 billion, or $12,895 per Hispanic resident, in 2010.Immigration report
  • Hispanic consumer spending was responsible for creating 92,000 spin-off jobs which, in turn, generated $3.4 billion in spin-off labor income, $460 million in spin-off state and local taxes, $444 million in spin-off federal taxes, and $367 million in spin-off social insurance payments.
  • Consumer spending by all immigrants generated 171,000 spin-off jobs, $6.4 billion in spin-off labor income, $1.4 billion in spin-off state and local taxes, $863 million in spin-off federal taxes, and $693 million in spin-off social insurance payments.
  • For immigrants and Hispanic newcomers,the state spent$2.3 billion and $2.0 billion, respectively, on essential services— k-12 education, health services, and public safety in 2010
  • The state received $2.4 billion and $1.5 billion, respectively, in total tax revenue (direct and indirect contributions) from immigrants ($3,869 per capita) and Hispanics ($1,900 per capita) in 2010.
  • $8 in revenue was generated for every $1 the state invested in essential services for immigrants; $5 was generated for every $1 invested in essential services for Hispanics.

The report’s bottom line: The overall economic impact of immigrants and Hispanics has been positive for the state, and underscores the need for an open door immigration policy.

Click here to read “Demographic and Economic Impacts of International Migration to North Carolina.”

Some of the most damning facts about the state of North Carolina’s tax system and what the most recent changes enacted by state leaders really portend for average families — especially the state’s one-of-a-kind repeal of the Earned Income Tax Credit — were explained at a Budget and Tax Center press briefing this morning. This is from a statement the group released after the event:

“The tax plan passed by the General Assembly during the 2013 legislative session resulted in a tax shift onto working families. Advocates from around the state joined together on Tax Day to bring awareness to the plan, which is bad for working families, children, business, and the economy. Under the new plan, which will took effect in January 2014 and will impact income tax filing in 2015, low- and middle-income families will see their taxes go up on average, while wealthy taxpayers and corporations saw large tax cuts.   Read More

Richard Burr 2This week’s LOL, through-the-looking-glass moment in conservative politics revolves around the antiquated Senate “blue slip” process whereby home state Senators like North Carolina’s own Richard Burr can unilaterally and without explanation block federal court nominees — even ones they’ve endorsed previously to the President.

As Think Progress contributor Ian Millhiser reports, proposals in the U.S. Senate to temper the rule (as was done previously by Republican Senator Orrin Hatch when he once chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee) are meeting strong resistance from…Senator Orrin Hatch:

“Rolling back the Senate’s so-called ‘blue slip process’ would be ‘disastrous,’ according to an op-ed written by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) on Friday. Which is somewhat of a surprising position for Hatch to take, since he largely abandoned this blue slip process in 2003. Read More