Commentary

James O'Keefe mugshotAccording to some reports, serial right-wing troublemaker and convicted breaker and enterer James O’Keefe (that’s him on the left in his federal government mugshot) is back in North Carolina and looking to pull off another one of his dishonest stunts.

O’Keefe, as you will recall, is a friend of the Pope groups who plead guilty back in 2010 to entering federal property under false pretenses and was sentenced to three years probation and 100 hours of community service and ordered to pay a fine.

Now, credible rumor has it, this disturbed scalawag is back in North Carolina — perhaps even in costume, pretending to be a college student volunteer and looking to lure genuine progressive activists into “gotcha” conversations during the run-up to the election. Feel free to spread the word and his mugshot.

Commentary
Photo: NC State AFL-CIO

Photo: NC State AFL-CIO

Don’t you just love it when the business lobby and their toadies in the far right think tanks get all misty-eyed about the fate of those poor, poor workers who will supposedly be so much worse off if the minimum wage rises substantially?

You know the rap:

“Hey, it would be great if workers could make much higher wages in industries like fast food, but if they did, the employers would all go out of business and all those workers would be out of jobs. See, it’s those poor, minority kids we really care about. We’re fighting to keep the minimum wage low and maybe even do away with it for their sake.”

The next time someone lays this yarn on you, tell them to check out this article in yesterday’s New York Times about life as a fast food worker in Denmark.  As reporters Liz Alderman and Steve Greenhouse discovered, decent wages and the fast food industry are not at all mutually exclusive:

“On a recent afternoon, Hampus Elofsson ended his 40-hour workweek at a Burger King and prepared for a movie and beer with friends. He had paid his rent and all his bills, stashed away some savings, yet still had money for nights out.

That is because he earns the equivalent of $20 an hour — the base wage for fast-food workers throughout Denmark and two and a half times what many fast-food workers earn in the United States.

‘You can make a decent living here working in fast food,’ said Mr. Elofsson, 24. ‘You don’t have to struggle to get by.’”

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Commentary

In case you missed them, two commentaries on the main Policy Watch website from earlier today are worth a look this afternoon.

In today’s “Monday numbers,” Chris Fitzsimon lists some of the latest sobering numbers surrounding the unrepentant efforts of Senator Phil Berger, Rep. Paul Stam and some other troubled souls to block enforcement of the law in North Carolina when it comes to marriage equality. Example:

4—number of says since Fayetteville minister Johnny Hunter said at Rep. Stam’s news that John Arrowood, a candidate for the N.C. Court of Appeals who is gay, is a “flaming homosexual” who should drop out of the race (“Fayetteville minister says openly gay judicial candidate is ‘biased’,) WNCN-TV, October 23, 2014)

0—number of times that Rep. Stam has publicly condemned the comments or openly expressed his disagreement with them

Meanwhile in “Judgeships crowd ballot with bubbles,” commentator Steve Ford of the North Carolina Council of Churches explores the wackiness of the ballot that North Carolina voters are now tackling across the state (which includes a Court of Appeals race with 19 candidates for one office). As Ford notes:

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Commentary

The folks in the North Carolina Republican Party keep wanting to have it both ways on Common Core. Abolishing the standards has become a crusade for the Tea Party wing led by Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, when he is not planning wacky constitutional conventions.  But much of the state’s business community, specifically the NC Chamber, has been outspoken proponents of retaining the Common Core standards.

Governor Pat McCrory has praised the standards too, and McCrory’s appointment to a commission rewriting the standards is a Common Core supporter, much to the consternation of the party’s hard-right activists.

But when Texas Governor Rick Perry came to North Carolina last week to stump for Thom Tillis’ Senate campaign and shared a stage with McCrory, he specifically mentioned Common Core as a reason to vote for Tillis.

He will go to Washington, D.C., and do everything he can to dismantle Obamacare,” Perry said. “He will say no to things like Common Core. He will say no to things like Race to the Top.”

Wonder what McCrory was thinking when Perry was speaking and when they both held Tillis’ hands high for the crowd?

Does McCrory want Tillis to go to Washington stop things like Common Core that McCrory himself supports?

Commentary

In case you missed it over the weekend, Patrick Conway, the head of the economics Department at UNC Chapel Hill had an important op-ed in Raleigh’s News & Observer about the true state of the North Carolina economy. As Conway explains, the recent rosy claims of state officials and their apologists in the right-wing think tanks  are ignoring a huge, under-reported issue: 300,000 “missing” workers who have simply evaporated from the workforce. Here’s Conway:

There’s a large disconnect in perceptions of the current state of North Carolina’s labor market.

Gov. Pat McCrory stated a positive view in a recent address in Chapel Hill: “We’ve had one of the largest drops in unemployment [rates] in the country.” His more general contention was that the state’s labor-market difficulties are “being resolved” by tough choices made by his administration.

A contrary view was voiced by a recent letter-writer who said we’re still in the midst of a terrible recession.

These views seem contradictory, but it is easy to reconcile the two. McCrory ignores the 300,000 working-age adults who have dropped out of the labor force since 2010. If we assert that they’re gone, our unemployment rate is a high but acceptable 6.8 percent. If we recognize that these are productive residents who have temporarily stopped looking for work, then our unemployment rate is a terrifying 12.4 percent.

Conway goes on to say that simply ignoring these missing workers will not solve the problem: Read More